2012 Bead Journal Project

December has not been a month for beading. Could not find a way to fit it in with all the holiday comings and goings. But I have been thinking about beads, and, with the final days of 2011 approaching, making plans for the new year.

It’s exciting to be participating in the Bead Journal Project for the first time. I’ve decided my journal pages will be 1 ½” x 2” pendants. Learning the properties of color was my focus in 2011. At the start of this year, if pressed, I might have been able to name the primary and secondary colors, but my knowledge of color relationships ended there. Now, since poring over the works of Margie Deeb, Beverly Ash Gilbert and others, I’ve added value and contrast, warm and cool, intensity and hue to my vocabulary.

I’ll be using my 2012 Bead Journal projects to explore the first of those, value, and try to better understand how bead finishes and textures contribute to the success of a piece. I cut out a viewfinder in my pendant size, and took a tour through our art books to frame out a composition.

For my first project I chose the bottom right corner of Georgia O’Keeffe’s Evening Star No. IV, starting the year off with the primary colors and a bit of green. After this long holiday break, it's time to head upstairs and reacquaint myself with my bead room!


Quite possibly the best Christmas bangle

I have stitched up a stocking full of these bangles for Christmas gifts. They’re really comfortable on the wrist, appeal to all ages, and would add instant holiday sparkle to everything from a flirty party dress to jeans and a t-shirt.

The gold and white bangle with Aurum 2x crystals is boxed and tucked into a Priority mailer, and will be on its way to my sister this afternoon. It’s guaranteed to coax her into the holiday spirit, even if she’s just bundling up on the couch for a night at home. I love the art deco look of the right-angle-weave band before it’s zipped around the rubber tubing.

The green bangle really stands out despite its muted palette and matte hex beads, with the addition of crystals in Black Diamond AB. It’s the chameleon of the bunch and looks great with anything.

And the season’s traditional red – that bangle’s staying with me! It’s the only sparkle I’ll need this holiday season. The pattern is Tamara Scott’s Infinity design, which can be found here.


Parsley. Sage. Rosemary and Chocolate?

The kids are coming home next week, and in preparation, my kitchen is filling up with the sweet and savory spices of fall. Parsley. Sage. Cinnamon. Allspice. And, last night the fragrant notes of rosemary and chocolate were wafting from the oven! Oh, we enjoy all the traditional Thanksgiving dishes, but this year I wanted to serve up a few things that were a bit less conventional. And when I’m looking for an occasional sweet treat that I know will still be healthy, I turn to my favorite food blog, 101 Cookbooks, where I found this recipe for Rosemary Olive Oil Cake.

I knew it was going to be a hit when I sampled a bit of the batter before baking. Mmmm - olive oil (I used an organic extra-virgin), mixed with chunks of bittersweet chocolate and fresh rosemary! Last night, warm from the oven, it tasted to Dan like an exotic chocolate chip cookie. He left with a fresh slice this morning to savor with his Starbucks. I had a piece for lunch and found the texture was even lighter and the flavors more developed today. Rosemary and chocolate – a successful marriage in this cake, and definitely a new addition to Thanksgiving at our house!


October Challenge Reveal

When Andrew Thornton put the October Challenge together, he envisioned crisp, clear autumn skies. When I tore open the package, I saw stars. Sirius. Polaris. Fomalhaut. Fomalhaut? Sometimes called the Autumn Star, Fomalhaut is best viewed in October and November where you will find it shining bright, silvery and alone near the southern horizon. You can track its nightly progress here.

The base of my Autumn Star pendant, in silver and nickel delicas from my stash, incorporates a square and four elongated triangles from Diane Fitzgerald’s Shaped Beadwork. A simple star washer, embellished with the smallest silver-lined seed beads, tiniest rondelles and pearls from the challenge mix, adds an elegant layer, using techniques I learned in a Laura McCabe Master Class earlier this year.  

I loved that the luxury mix of beads embraced the spectrum of blue from lavender to sapphire to navy and inky blue-black. I chose a few in all those shades to highlight the artisan beads in my simple neckstrap, which uses another star washer as its toggle closure. (The gorgeous glass headpin by SueBeads and Andrew's silver skull bead, this month's mystery component, are being reserved for other pieces.)

Click over to Andrew's blog for links to the designs from all the October challenge participants.


Maven Meld

What a lovely contest the Bead Mavens offered up, enticing those of us who are new to creating our own designs to take a step in that direction by melding two or more of their tutorial patterns together to create something new. I love pieces that are component based, and the Mavens offered some exciting ones. Do you ever see something and just know you have to make it? As soon as I clicked on Heather Collin’s Cactus Drops tutorial, I knew I’d found my focal. I was equally captivated by Cynthia Newcomer Daniel’s treatment of side-drilled beads in her Woodland Treasure design.

© MzePhotos.com, Some Rights Reserved

On to colors! I chose chocolate brown and bronze, paired with delicate red violet tones, inspired by the mystique and majesty of night-blooming cactus.

My first attempt with this color palette was dreamy and delicate, but after stitching up a few sample components, I realized it didn’t convey what I was striving for -  the mood of a desert garden at the moment that day changes into night. 

Reversing the colors, using a warmer shade of violet as the accent, and switching from iridescent stick pearls to faceted nuggets in smokey quartz gave my design the glow and the feel of a moonlit garden.

The drops are stitched in cubic right angle weave, which was new to me. Drops finished, but still fascinated with the stitch, I continued it into the neckstrap. Heather Collin has a definitive basic CRAW tutorial, which helped me master this stitch, and you might also check out Gwen Fisher’s video if you want to take your CRAW skills to the next level.

The deadline for entries is tonight at midnight. Click over to the Mavens’ challenge page to see some very amazing work.


Two are Better Than One

That’s true for cookies, chips, chain-nose pliers, and most definitely for Tamara Scott’s new cuff, Othello. If you’re familiar with Tamara’s popular Circle of Gems bracelets, Othello is a chunkier, more textured version of that bangle.

A few hours spent right-angle-weaving and netting the base, then zipping a couple of embellished peyote strips over that core, and in an afternoon, you have a colorful bangle…or two…or three.

Stack up a jumble of textures and colors to create your own unique look. Bet you can’t stop with just one!

Click here to see more of Atlanta-based artist, Tamara Scott’s designs.


Bead Soup Blog Party Reveal

Today is the day all 362 participants in Lori Anderson’s Bead Soup Blog Party (BSBP) reveal the pieces they’ve created with the bead soup they received. Here is another look at the collection of beads I received from my partner, Heather DeSimone of Beadin’ Path.

The 1960’s brass focal sent me on a tour of vintage clothing shops and collectible markets to get a sense of the era. At a shop in Nashville, I met a couple of stylish sisters who were selling their collection of vintage Hermes silk scarves – iconic pieces that would have adorned the necks of the likes of Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn or Jackie O. Too dear a price for me, but one in their collection, still wrapped in its original tissue paper, inspired my color palette (black, gold, cream and silver) and my design element – graceful leaves. 

Black and gold are always sophisticated, and I find that cream, often thought to be a cool color, can warm up a palette, the way these Swarovski pearls (in light rose cream) help to showcase the intricate design and detail of the lily focal.

After investigating several dozen leaf designs I settled on a Russian-inspired variation from Sheila Summers. Her free tutorial is precise, well-written and very easy to customize.

I wanted my choker to be as easy an accessory as a scarf – just wrap it around your neck and instantly brighten your day – without having to think about it again. To that end, I needed to ensure that the peyote tubes, supported by a 3mm buna cord, would stay put – no shifting or twisting or spinning of leaves. So I zipped the tubes on the cord, and found that if I switched to a size 10 beading needle, I could stitch right through the cord, anchoring each tube in place. The necklace is finished with Heather’s fabulous carved jet beads and silver clasp, making the closure as elegant as the focal!

Warmest thanks to Lori Anderson for hosting this extraordinary online party! You’ll want to check out what Heather and the other 360 party guests dreamed up by clicking here.


Sun Glinting on Sea

I found this faceted focal bead a couple of months ago on a trip to the Georgia coast with my son. Chase was on a job search, and I took the opportunity to hang out in an area bead store while he interviewed. When The Sea surfaced as this month’s Inspired by Nature challenge, this lampwork beauty was an obvious choice. The pattern and colors of the pendant are straight from nature, and the center features what might be a treasure of the sea, scooped from the shore and enclosed in glass forever.

 I decided to focus on the yellow-greens and deepest blues for my neckstrap. Hollow netted tubes encase more than a hundred Jet AB2X crystals, creating an ever-changing glitter pattern as it’s worn – moving points of light, reminiscent of the sun’s reflection on the changing surface of the sea.

You can see more sea-inspired accessories at the Inspired by Nature Flickr group.


Vintage Soup

Just returned from a ten-day trip, and have to admit that more than once, my foot was a little heavy on the gas pedal in anticipation of finding my bead soup from Heather of The Beadin Path when I got home.

I was not disappointed! The brown box was waiting on the counter, and inside – this wonderful vintage soup, infused with tantalizing colors and textures.

Just look at the range of colors in the 1960’s brass lily focal! Beautifully complemented by large jet Lucite rounds, chunky red German glass squares, 1920’s Bohemian topaz faceted glass, and, (my favorite!) carved Victorian-era jet beads. A delicate silver clasp completes the soup.

It’s great to be home, and back to the bead table. And fun to receive Heather’s lovely collection of beads that have set my thoughts spinning!


Japanese Gardens

The Inspired by Nature Challenge for week 7 is the Zen Garden, a place of peace and meditation.

The focal in my design is one I found when I was only weeks into my beading experience (and before I took up the habit of inquiring into the names of my stones.)  I was attracted to its cosmic undertone, the way it draws the eye in to explore its depths. Perfect for this week’s challenge! Bezelled in gunmetal and sterling silver seed beads, the stone has a small, center-drilled hole in the top, which I first viewed as a drawback, but came to see as an opportunity to begin embellishing with small pearls and pieces of silver, suggesting the small rock groupings found in these gardens.

The pendant inspired my color palette of  blues, grays and yellow-green turquoise. I added a bit of warmth with deep-red rondelles.

Click over to the Inspired by Nature group on Flickr to get a peak into other designers’ inner gardens.


Crossing Over

I am hooked on bracelets at the moment, and have decided to get my sister into the trend. Today is her birthday, and this layered herringbone cuff should have arrived in her mailbox this afternoon. The design, by Bead Maven, Heather Collin, was pure joy to make! I learned some new techniques I will incorporate into my work, most notably how to increase and how to change the direction of a strand.

The base is stitched in stone gray and orchid and embellished with sterling silver, nickel and lavender seed beads. Deep purple firepolish beads and lavender crystals add more color and sparkle. It should travel through the seasons well, with two beautiful shades of gray appearing on Pantone’s Fall Color Report.

If you’re thinking of entering the Bead Maven’s Meld Challenge, you might want to consider Heather’s Crossing Over pattern. The details of the challenge can be found here, and Heather’s exceptionally well-written and illustrated pattern is currently on sale in her DreamweaversStudio shop.


The Party Begins...

What are the chances? My Bead Soup Blog partner is someone I am already very familiar with, Heather DeSimone, co-owner of The Beadin’ Path in Freeport, Maine. You will often find me poring over the designs and articles on this award-winning store’s website, a virtual one-stop wonderland for jewelry designers.

Not one to wait, I ventured out last week in search of beads for my soup, straight to my favorite brick-and-mortar beadstore, Beadazzles.  Beadazzles’ owner, Alice, is a great source of inspiration and an artist whose designs always make a statement. Her shop is a reflection of her own style, and is so much more than a place to buy beads; it’s a destination and, usually, a hive of activity. But when I stopped in last Monday morning, I found a lone beader working at a corner table, and Alice, restocking the seed bead wall.

When she heard about my mission, she jumped at the opportunity to offer her suggestions (which I took, with much gratitude.) And that was before I knew who my partner was!

So am I nervous about sending out this package to Heather, who spends her days surrounded by strands of glass, shell, gem, vintage and crystal beads? Is there any chance she’ll be inspired? Since my choice of beads was guided by one savvy bead store owner and going into the hands of another, I think the odds are just fine!!!


Inspiration-Tiger Lily

I rarely make a piece for myself, but I was invited to a wedding tonight, and wore a sweater that was in the warm-red, coral pink tones of the tiger lily. Despite a flutter of ruffles, my sweater still called for a necklace, something understated, that didn’t shout for attention.

A dyed jade flower in the colors of the tiger lily became my starting point. My stash yielded some additional rounds and glass beads in warm oranges. Top-drilled peridot and a gold CZ round gave the needed contrast and shine. Finally, I mixed up a bead soup in analogous shades from orange-yellow to magenta. Did you notice the name of my primary seed bead in this mix? Despite the name, it’s a very agreeable, low-intensity amber that always looks good, no matter what I pair it with.

It was a wonderful wedding, celebrated at the Panda Pavilion of Zoo Atlanta. A beautiful summer night, a new necklace, a good time with friends, and I’ve never seen a groom so in love with his bride!

To see some truly inspired tiger lily designs, click over to the Inspired by Nature Jewelry Challenge, and prepare to be amazed by this week's challenge responses!


Abuzz in Black and Gold

With Bees announced as the Inspired by Nature Challenge this week, I explored my bead stash for every shade of black and gold it would yield. Not a bejeweled bee in sight, but I did remember two vintage buttons I found last year, both in traditional bee colors!

I liked that the button on the right suggests a flower, but on closer inspection, I found that the gold had flaked off in spots. The one on the left reminds me of ancient Egypt, where bees were thought to be the tears of Ra, the Sun God, transformed into the radiant honey producers when they fell to the earth.

My lariat is based on an ingenious design by Carole Ohl, where a button is used both as the focal and the closure. I totally missed the two brown lampwork beads in the lariat strap the first time I searched my stash. So glad I noticed them (and their honeycomb resemblance) on my second look!

“Aerodynamically, the bumble bee shouldn’t be able to fly, but the bumble bee doesn’t know it so it goes on flying anyway.” – Mary Kay Ash


Cleopatra and the Leaf Toads

When it was announced that the forest floor would be this week’s Inspired by Nature challenge, I knew exactly what my inspiration would be – this photo, one of my favorites from National Geographic.

Can you spot the three leaf-litter toads? Nearly impossible for predators to distinguish from the debris on the forest floor!

I’m currently reading an intriguing biography of Cleopatra, a mistress of disguise herself, who, on more than one occasion, owed her life to her uncanny ability to vanish in plain sight.

To celebrate nature's and we humans' love of mimicry, I call this bracelet Cleopatra and the Leaf Toads.
Cleopatra, in the center, represented by the large CZ round (no stranger to deception, itself!), surrounded by faceted rounds in the same luscious caramel-to-golden browns and pale-to-dark grays as the impostors on that forest floor in Panama.

To see more forest floor-inspired designs, visit the Inspired by Nature group on Flickr.


Inspired by: The Flowering Trees of Summer

Dutch spiral stitch sent me searching for my first beadweaving class nearly two years ago. I enjoyed that first project, but hadn’t returned to the spiral stitch again - until this week. With the twin goals of using up my bead stash and taking Heather Powers’ Inspired by Nature challenge (this week featuring trees), spiral stitch seemed the perfect fit. It’s a great stitch to create something entirely unique, and it uses up lots of beads!

My inspiration for this piece was the Golden Raintree my sister brought home from school one fall afternoon. My dad planted it at the top of our driveway where it welcomed us home with a canopy of golden yellow flowers in late-spring and summer and sprays of orangey-pink pods in the fall.

Bead & Button recently offered a free download pattern by Alicia Shems which featured a double-spiral design with delicas on one side of the spiral. Thinking delicas would result in a necklace that would lay a little flatter, I adopted Alicia’s technique to my own style and bead stash, and set out to capture the glory of the Golden Raintree in beads.

I don’t know whether it was the versatility of the spiral stitch, the thrill of working with such lush colors, or the memories of all the family events captured under the shade of our own Golden Raintree, but this week was great fun at the bead table. Thanks again, Heather, for continuing to challenge us creatively. To see more tree-inspired designs, visit the Inspired by Nature group on Flickr.


Of Birds and Bedes

Celebrating her soon-to-be-released book, Heather Powers is inspiring us all by nature, and this week’s challenge was to design something feather or bird related. I turned to National Geographic and quickly found this tantalizing tail feather, compliments of the Golden Headed Quetzal. Gorgeous colors that I happened to already have in my stash.

My nature-inspired triad of green, purple and orange began with a kumihimo neck strap finished off with some Inca Rose rounds, Unicorn glass donuts, and a ceramic and sterling silver front-clasp in the feather’s predominant blue-green.
The large focal is Rachel Nelson-Smith’s Oothecal Bede pattern, a right angle weave beauty from Seed Bead Fusion that allowed me to bring in another touch of the accent purples and oranges. The focal is finished with a Stuart Abelman art glass bead in a stunning purple with silver accents. Dangling from the tip are three silver feathers.

Thanks to Heather for the challenge. To see other designs, click over to the Inspired by Nature Flickr group.

Beading My Stash – project one finished!


Beading My Stash

A tempting e-mail arrived in my Inbox yesterday: an invitation to Atlanta Bead Company’s warehouse sale, only days away! I remembered all the goodies I brought back from last year’s event and then it hit me. Where are all those irresistible bead buys now? Ninety percent of them are still in their plastic bags, waiting to be tumbled out on my bead mat and brought to life.

I’ve given myself a challenge. For the rest of the summer, the next 60 days until Labor Day, I am going to create exclusively from my bead stash. Beginning with this tray, all culled from my existing stash and waiting to answer this week’s Inspired by Nature challenge from Heather’s HumbleBead blog. Due Sunday! Yikes!!!


Making the Leap

Travels over, I finally have the chance to share some photos of our beading adventure in Idaho last month, where I had the opportunity to make the leap from student to teacher and introduce the art of beadweaving to a roomful of women. Jan Wasser, Vicki Quirk and Nadrah Strong from the Spokane Bead Society made the trip to Coeur d'Alene to share in the teaching duties.

Threading needles seemed to be the biggest challenge for our new beaders. That, and starting the first row of ladder stitch!

Nadrah Strong assists with needle-threading. We all loved her feather hair extensions!

Jan Wasser shares a tip.

Needles threaded. Foundation row in hand. After that, it was pure fun!


The Bold and the Beautiful: Tetrads

Lisa Kan’s Marrakech earrings have been flagged in my Sept. 2009 Bead & Button magazine ever since it hit my mailbox. I decided it was finally time to stitch them up in a tetrad color scheme, one based on a slim rectangle.

I selected two colors side-by-side on the color wheel, chartreuse and yellow-green, in muted tones, along with their complements, red-violet and purple. Lisa’s pattern was such fun to stitch, as the three-dimensional triangles magically formed and combined into the lower basket of the earring. Overall, a very soft and romantic, beautiful color palette.

In the second tetrad, I used the same chartreuse and red-violet. But this time, for Diane Fitzgerald’s triangles, I used these two colors in nearly pure hues, combined in a bolder square tetrad palette (all four colors spaced evenly around the color wheel) with blue and red-orange. Much more vibrant and playful.

Now that I’ve finished Margie Deeb’s Color Theory class on craftedu.com, it’s time to learn about seed bead colors and finishes. See how the blue delicas pop against the edges in the single-layer earring at the bottom of the photo? When the second layer is added and they’re zipped up with another row of red-violet in the finished earring, they recede significantly. Time to learn how to choose both color and finish to get the effect I want. Luckily, there’s a class for that!


Dreamy Orange

This wrap bracelet, in her favorite color, is going out to granddaughter Delaney, who celebrates her twelfth birthday this week. It reminds me of the orangeade, made fresh every day, that magically recirculated in the beverage machines at the Woolworth’s lunch counter when I was 12. My sister and cousins and I spent many a summer afternoon on those red leather stools gazing dreamily into the mirror behind the counter, planning our futures.

Psychologists tell us that orange is the favorite color of the lively, the curious and fearless, the planet’s big dreamers! Happy birthday, Delaney. Here’s hoping all those dreams come true!


Off to Idaho

Pink and gray. I rarely wear this color combination, but since I packed an open knit gray vest and pink tee for my upcoming trip west, a new accessory was needed. My outfit called for a cuff, and the current issue of Bead & Button featured a quick and easy solution - Donna Pagano Denny’s RAW Beauty bangle on page 30.

I chose a nickel seed bead base, with a soft and subtle crystal combination of black pearl, crystal, light peach, and light Colorado topaz. Pleased with the look of the first embellished strip, (Donna offers the option of ending the bracelet there), I’m glad I continued on with the pattern, because I love the structural look and feel that the addition of a second layer brings to this design. And the double-loop closure is a wonderfully clever finishing touch!

I will return to this pattern again. Although stunning with crystals running down its spine, I can see lots of design potential using gemstones, cubes, drops. But not right now. Last-minute accessory finished. Suitcase packed. Off to Idaho!


Bead Soup Double-Up

Had great fun with The Bead Mavens’ Bead Soup Double-Up. The focal in my bead soup, from Mandy at Beads for Brains, handed me my color palette – warm browns and the full gamut of my favorite blue-greens. The moment I saw the egg-shaped pendant, I knew I would create a fringed tassel with it.

After experimenting with several neckstraps, I settled on one inspired by Christie Dunn’s Autumn Renewal design (Beadwork, Sept. 2009.) Square-stitched and freeform peyote sections of seed beads and crystals connect the lampworked discs and butterscotch spikes and diamonds. I couldn’t believe my luck when I found these Grace lampwork discs swirled with the same dark and light teals as the pendant!

Since it’s a rather heavy focal, I made a small loop at one end of a piece of 14-pound Fireline to hold the fringe, strung my focal beads, pulled the fringe up through the focals and created a larger loop to connect with the loops at the end of each strap. After securing with a crimp tube, I realized I didn’t have a decorative cover large enough to slip over the crimp. With the deadline looming, I square-stitched a 4-bead-high collar to match the strap ends, snugged it against the crimp, connected the ends, and problem solved! It gives a nice finish to the focal. I may never use a decorative crimp cover again!

Thanks so much to the Bead Mavens for sponsoring this event and to Mandy for gifting me with a great selection of beads. Check out all the design results in the Bead Soup album on the Mavens' blog.