A Little Winter Romance

December’s inspiration for the Art Bead Challenge, Sleeping Beauty by Erte, offered some spectacular color combinations! I love its twist on the primary palette, with the darkened red and blue, muted yellow and the surprising addition of soft lavender. I decided to create a bracelet this month, and focused on an expanded complementary palette of rich red through orange-yellow, accented with the print’s deep blue.

The center strand starts with two Czech glass beads patterned very similarly to the dress in the painting! Vivid lapis rounds surround the center bead, which is one of Erin Prais-Hintz’s frosted flake charms in ginger and bezeled in brass. A brass disc bead completes the strand. I designed this strand to be reversible; warm and classic in the photo on the left, the bracelet takes on a frosty, elegant feel when the focal charm is flipped to reveal a second snowflake in steel with a silver bezel in the top, right photo.

A second strand is made up of vintage glass rosary beads in the same deep red, etched with delicate gold swirls. The last strand is a length of bronze chain embellished with bright red rondelles tipped with deep blue. The strands, which combine the rich gold of the 3-cut seed beads, the cool silver of the rosary, and the warm bronze chain, are joined by a curved bronze cuff connector handcrafted by THEAtoo.

This is one of my favorite projects of the year - what a great inspiration print to end the Art Bead Scene challenges for 2012! There's still plenty of time to join in the fun! Click over to the Art Bead Scene’s Flickr page to see all the entries for this month.


Giveaway Winner

The winner of my Saki Silver giveaway (by selection of the random number generator), is Renetha of Lamplight Crafts.

Congratulations to Renetha, and thanks to everyone who stopped by my blog and took the time to leave a comment!


Santa, I'm going to need some new tools...

Hammering, sanding, stamping, joining metals – that’s how I spent last Sunday at YaYa Beads in Augusta, getting my first taste of metalworking. YaYa Beads’ owner, Lesley, a terrifically talented jewelry designer and teacher, profiled the cold connections workshop on her Sweet Freedom blog. Here’s my first pendant.

I had to leave the pendant behind in the tumbler, and when it arrived in yesterday’s mail, I couldn’t have been more excited if the envelope had been from Tiffany’s! Oh, the possibilities! This is a skill I am definitely going to pursue in the new year!


Gratitude and a Giveaway

This Saki focal necklace with its simple quad stitch chain is on its way to my sister.  Despite a very trying year, she inspired us all by taking the month of November to post everything she was grateful for on Facebook. This is going to her to let her know how grateful I am that she’s part of my life.
I fell in love with the modern Asian design aesthetic of Saki Silver when I came upon one of their pendants at my local bead store. When I saw they were exhibiting at an Atlanta bead show last month, I was there when the doors opened, meeting and chatting with co-founder, Liz Chumtong, and learning about their company and products. The toggle that serves as the focal in my sister’s necklace is made of shibuichi, a copper/silver alloy.  Having happily spent my entire show budget at Saki, I stopped by only one other booth, manned by the Atlanta Bead Society, where I saw a very simple necklace made of quad stitch and learned it was from Beth Stone’s Seed Bead Stitching.

The palette for my neckstrap began with a tube of café au lait seed beads from Beverly Ash Gilbert. I added some bright accents with 3 and 4mm pacific opal crystals, and lots of silver beads, including 2mm sterling rounds, 3mm cubes, and 8/0 3-cuts for sparkle. To add more depth and echo the undertones in the toggle, I added some rich burgundy pearls and jet crystals.
And now for the fun part. I am so grateful to those of you who take the time to stop by my blog and share in my beading adventures. So I’m sharing some of my favorite things with you!

Just be a follower of my blog and leave a comment on this post. I will be sending one follower a generous portion of my bead soup recipe and two Saki toggles – a 34mm shibuichi like the one in my sister’s necklace, and because I think this soup would be fantastic with silver, a 36mm sterling silver sunburst design. And a copy of Beth Stone’s Seed Bead Stitching, where you’ll find some interesting variations on traditional stitches. I’ll choose the winner on Sunday, December 9th. Good luck! (Note: If you don’t have e-mail turned on in your profile, please leave a way to contact you in your comment.)


Three Worlds

This month’s Art Bead Scene challenge featured one of my favorite artists, M.C. Escher, and his 1955 lithograph, Three Worlds.

From the Art Bead Scene: Three Worlds depicts a large pool or lake during the autumn or winter months, the title referring to the three visible perspectives in the picture: the surface of the water on which leaves float, the world above the surface, observable by the water's reflection of the forest, and the world below the surface, observable in the large fish swimming just below the water's surface.
My design began to take shape when I spotted a large (2 ½”) sterling silver fish pendant from Luanne Keen’s Eton Street shop on Etsy. Perfect to portray the world below the surface!

I created a large teardrop shape in matte black and steel delicas to frame Luanne’s focal. A second teardrop, inset with a peyote pattern of fish scales in the lithograph’s many shades of gray, nests inside the first and shimmers through the cutouts in the fish.
A single silver leaf floats in a peyote and herringbone frame, depicting the surface, and a Taina Hartman white bronze woodland pendant represents the forest. Adding luster and contrast to the matte elements, a handmade pearl chain brings in the picture's pure black and white.

I had so much fun with this challenge! Take a minute to click over to the Art Bead Scene Flickr group to see the amazing range of designs based on Escher’s work.


Vintage brooch as front and center focal

I love this brooch, which was a birthday present (and the first gift of jewelry my husband ever gave me) 25 years ago.  According to this recent post by Andrew Thornton, that makes it vintage! I wore it all the time in the late-‘80’s, at the center of a buttoned-up collar, but must admit that it has languished in my jewelry box for the last 20 years. Until this week, when I was looking for a focal for an Alchemy of Objects class challenge.
My first thought was to remove the clasp and drill holes in the side petals to attach the neckstrap. I was debating the best place to drill to achieve just the right balance, when it occurred to me that I could keep the pin back attached. The brooch is concave, and the clasp would not interfere with it lying flat as a focal. I particularly liked this option because it allowed me to create some fringe to echo and accent the gray stamen in the brooch.
Faceted quartz, bali silver, chyrsocolla rondelles, and herringbone sections adapted from a Carol Wilcox Wells design in  Beadwork (April/May2011)
Pin back detail: Square-stitched loops connect the neckstrap to the brooch; fringe cascades from removable peyote-stitched tube.

The upside of retaining the pin back: the integrity of my brooch wasn’t compromised (I’m an absolute novice with a drill!) and my necklace is now convertible. It can be worn without the fringe, which can easily be slipped off its pin. Also, the brooch itself is completely detachable – it will be jacket season soon, and, when it's not enjoying its second life as a necklace,  it can still be used as a pretty, single accessory to punch up a black blazer.


Ears To You Blog Hop

Amy Freeland of Copper Diem is hosting a blog hop today to benefit Ears To You, a very special jewelry donation program for women undergoing chemotherapy.

Ruth Crane founded Ears To You after undergoing chemotherapy herself, and finding that she felt more attractive, more "normal" when she was able to accessorize. “I started Ears To You to help other women deal with hair loss and provide a way for them to feel good about themselves at a time when life can seem uncertain and scary.” Thanks to Amy for pointing me to this thoughtful organization - I am so happy to be included in this effort to send a bit of support and encouragement to these women during a challenging time.

There are dozens of artists participating in today's hop. You'l want to check out the work of each and every one:

Copper Diem
My Addictions
Beads, Tea and Sweets
Juls Beads
Fabric of my Life
Blogging Business Artisans
Jeannie's Blog
Lorelei's Blog
One Kiss Creations
Backstory Beads
According to Katie
Cherish Designs
Beads: Rolling Downhill
Falling Into The Sky
Garden Path Beads
Antiquity Travelers
Sissy and Jacks
Erin Siegel Jewelry/Art Bead Scene
Northwood Creative Studio
SilverRose Designs
Dreamin of Beads/SAS Jewelry Design
Cabe Woman
Summers Studio
Honey from the Bee
Shaiha's Ramblings
Mama's Got to Doodle
Beads for Busy Gals
Tanya McGuire
Creative Atelier


October Fest Celebration: Bumps in the Night

Rita of Toltec Jewels is hosting a blog and Facebook hop today to celebrate the splendor of Autumn – participants were encouraged to take up the challenge with jewelry, beads, home decor, recipes – all manner of creative pursuits will be on display.

I chose to celebrate the brilliant oranges, yellows and reds of Fall and pay homage to the ghosts, the goblins and  the thrills and chills of Halloween. My “Bumps in the Night” necklace is designed around three beaded beads. The central  geometric bead is from a pattern by the uber-talented Jean Power and the banded beads are from a tutorial by the wonderfully creative Sharri Moroshok. Most of the season-perfect yellow and orange supporting beads are from SueBeads.

Click on this link to see our host, Rita’s, offerings and links to the list of 40+ participants. Then join me on this delightful hop - I can’t think of a more inspiring way to celebrate the last week-end of October!


A Time to (St. Petersburg) Stitch

Thanks so much to Therese Frank and Christine Altmiller for sponsoring another blog hop, and for challenging us with right-angle weave and St. Petersburg chain. I’ve been wanting to learn St. Petersburg stitch forever, but just never set aside the time. When I saw their challenge pop up in my reader, I knew the time had come!

I also knew I wanted to make something casual. More than any other season, I tend toward a uniform in Fall – long-sleeve white tee, dark jeans, and a pair of Naots. If I have an outside meeting, I change into a white shirt and low heels, and can go from bead table to door in ten minutes! I needed an everyday accessory to brighten up my look, wherever I’m spending my day.

After watching a couple of online tutorials, it seemed that St. Petersburg stitch could be adapted to a wide range of beads for many different looks. After several experiments, I decided a single St. Petersburg chain stitched with 1.8mm cubes and a mix of 4mm firepolish beads would keep the look casual, while giving my necklace  a slightly chunky drape and enough visual weight for a bronze Saki pendant.

This stitch is easy to grasp after the first few rows, is really fun and relaxing to do, works up very quickly and I am so happy with the results! My necklace brings lots of color to crisp white, and looks great against dark colors – like this morning, when I left the house at 7:00 and threw on the other staple of my Fall wardrobe – my warm black cardigan.
Thanks again, Therese and Christine – I’ve already started a second St. Petersburg project, and may have found my new favorite stitch!
There are two dozen beaders who took up Therese and Christine’s challenge – click on the list below - you'll want to savor the work of each one.


Finally, a Keeper

The lesson on proportion in my Alchemy of Objects e-course sent me to my focal box for this pendant. Added to my collection nearly two years ago, I've designed (and discarded) many beadwoven straps for it -- at least half a dozen. I have ripped apart untold rows of netting, right angle weave and herringbone - never quite finding the right combination of beads and technique to complement the gorgeous pendant.

So, time to try something new. I realized the proportions were wrong in each of my previous attempts, both in color (I had previously used the focal's gold accent as my main color) and in size (I tried seed beads from 11's through 6's.) I now had the confidence to try a strung design.

For this challenge, I focused on the pendant's rich browns, choosing faceted smoky quartz nuggets and rounds. I used sterling silver accents to tie it all together visually, only hinting at the gold with my pearl strand. Finally! I think I have a keeper.


Mismatched Art Bead Earring Swap Reveal

Today is the reveal for the Mismatched Art Bead Earring Swap organized by Diana Ptaszynski of Suburban Girl Studio. I jumped at the chance to participate in this swap because I personally love this trend. Mismatched earrings are so much fun, but every inch a challenge – much thought and skill go into designing a well-balanced pair that look like they belong together. My very creative partner, Kari Asbury of Hippie Chick Jewelry, did a fabulous job making a statement with the earrings she designed for me.

The challenge required that participants have a blog and use at least one art bead in each earring. Mine are just brimming! The polymer charm is by Martha Eason of Menagerie Studios, where you’ll also find some fantastic fleur-de-lis and crosses. The green lampwork bead and headpins are from Raida Disbrow of Havana Beads, an Etsy shop lush with the colors of fall. And the red ceramic bead is by super-talented artist, Nan Emmett, of Spirited Earth.

Now, head over to Kari’s blog where you can see the earrings I designed for her. Then check out the work of the other swap participants. I know I can’t wait to savor all the asymmetrical goodness!

Rana L. Wilson http://ranaleadesigns.blogspot.com/
Melissa Trudinger http://www.beadrecipes.wordpress.com


Focus on Texture

My focus this week was to highlight texture, both physical texture through my beads, and visual texture through color and contrast. It seemed only natural to choose a Gerhard Richter painting as my inspiration point, so I turned to this wintry forest scene, one of my favorites.

I already had pearls, crystals, daggers, wood and glass beads in the painting’s color palette.
A visit to a ribbon store produced the rosy cream-colored crystal and fiber shapes, which I discovered nestled in a display case with a collection of vintage buttons. The store owner explained that they were intended to be used as appliques to upcycle jean jackets.  I thought their six sides suggested snowflakes and knew I had found the perfect answer to my search for some softer texture.

My snowflakes were whisper light and would need some reinforcement before I could use them in my focal. In the photo below, the top snowflake shows the original back view of the appliques, two of which I backed in Lacy’s Stiff Stuff and upholstery-weight ultrasuede. I stitched the third snowflake to a starburst shape constructed with the daggers and right-angle weave.

A rivoli in the same shade as the snowflakes’ crystals connects the focal elements, which I hung from two strands of pearls in the painting’s darkest and lightest browns.  
It was so much fun working with texture. Up next week: Proportion!


Artsy Asymmetry

I often receive comments from people intrigued by the intricate details of my beadwoven pieces. But what wows me are designers who take wire and beads and string them and wrap them into striking works of art. Sleek and modern, rustic and tribal, vintage, exotic, iconic - how do they do that? To help answer that question, I signed up for Deryn Mentock’s online design class, the Alchemy of Objects.

Last week Deryn challenged us to create an asymmetrical piece. I started with a vintage button and a strand of lapis rounds, then pulled together all the metal components and coordinating strands I could find. (When the situation calls for more than seed beads, my stash gets a little thin.) I did allow myself a single tube of size 8 seed beads in zinc, which contrasted nicely with the shine and the natural gold flecks in the lapis.

The class videos gave glimpses into the creative decisions that go into
Deryn’s own enviable designs and were rich in examples for achieving both visual and physical balance.
I chose monochromatic with this first attempt, and am looking forward to challenging myself with more color for next week’s adventure: Texture.
Sign-ups for Deryn’s class are open until mid-October, so head over to her website if you're looking for an inspiring, nuts-and-bolts design class.





Fall-worthy Herringbone and Free Patterns from Lark

As I was adding the final embellishments to this Sinusoidal Necklace design by Melissa Grakowsky (won’t it just make a Fall wardrobe pop!), I was thinking that I’d like to take Melissa’s sine-wave shaping and use it in a more casual necklace.
And then I was reading Jean Yates’ blog, and saw that Melissa has already done that for me! Her new book, I Can Herringbone, is due out in early-November, but Lark has given us two preview projects now, including the Athena necklace.
Athena Necklace by Melissa Grakowsky
Can’t you just see this with a druzy quartz focal? (There’s a braided bracelet, too.) Click over to Lark and check out the free herringbone designs from Melissa Grakowsky and Mabeline Gidez’s sparkling right-angle-weave .


The Shape of Water

Human nature is like water. It takes the shape of its container. – Wallace Stephens

While I worked on this necklace, I was listening to Laura Hillenbrand’s book, Unbroken, where Wallace Stephens’ quote is certainly borne out as three downed World War II airmen drift 2,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean in a 2-person canvas and rubber raft.  Water is practically a character, both giving and taking life in Hillenbrand’s epic tale.

Which brings me to the water focal, the second of four focals I received from Beth and Evie McCord of EB Bead and Metalworks. I wanted to use it as the centerpiece in a statement necklace to wear this upcoming season, something with dramatic drape in a face-framing length. I chose Swarovski pearls, graduated in size (from 6-10mm) and in shades of blue (from inky night blue to sparkling light blue.)
I wore it to a meeting yesterday with an open-neck white shirt and black slacks. I can see it work very casually with a chambray shirt or a square neck tee, or elegantly with a sheath dress and sweater. No earrings or bracelets required!


My first blog award!

My blog has been awarded the One Lovely Blog Award by Mandy of Beads for Brains:365! Much thanks to Mandy, whom I first met when we were paired up for a Bead Mavens challenge. (How I miss the Bead Mavens!) It was both my and Mandy’s first venture into the world of beading challenges, so we instantly bonded. If you’re not familiar with Mandy’s blog, she has, in the space of just over a year, assembled a virtual encyclopedia of all things beading.

As a condition of acceptance, I am asked to:
  1. Thank the nominee and link back to them in the post.
  2. Share 7 random facts about myself.
  3. Nominate 15 (or so) bloggers I admire.
  4. Contact them to let them know they have been nominated.

On to the 7 Random Facts:
  1. Until I took up beading 3 years ago, I had never attempted anything creative with my hands unless a couple of big-eyed macramĂ© owls in the 1970’s count!
  2. I am thoroughly addicted to the banterings on Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me on Saturday mornings.
  3. My husband, Dan, is a much better cook than I am.
  4. When I finish a beading project, I put every single bead from that project away before I can start another one.
  5. If I’m feeling out-of-sorts, it’s probably because I haven’t read a Joyce Carol Oates novel in awhile.
  6. I’ve lived in a dozen cities, from Pennsylvania to Arizona. Atlanta, my current home, is my favorite.
  7. Our four children live in Louisville, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Rome, so I travel. A lot.

 And now it’s  my turn to pass this award on to another round of deserving bloggers. Here they are in alphabetical order:

Artful Living on the Bluff.  Although she has previously received this award, I had to include Cindy Caraway on my list. Artful Living is one of the first creative blogs I discovered and Cindy graciously encouraged me as a fledgling beader to explore the art of bead embroidery. I have gleaned so much inspiration from her site, and it remains a wonderful resource for design and color exploration –from soft and romantic to bold and dramatic.

Baublicious.  Karen Williams, of the Baublicious blog and Skunk Hill Studio, is a gifted artist, inspired writer, and natural teacher. I learn so much from her books, beautifully illustrated and meticulously detailed tutorials, and inspiring links. Head over to her blog right now and catch up on her current series where she’s sharing her expertise on the Elements of Design.

Beadsong Jewelry.  I recently blogged about meeting Bobbie Rafferty and seeing her one-of-a-kind designs in person at a craft fair in Indiana. She documents her life and art at Beadsong Jewelry, where her readers have come to expect posts filled with humor and grace. Oh, and if there were an award for Best Crafting of Post Titles, Bobbie would be on everyone's list for that one, too!


EB Bead and Metalworks.  Mandy, who gave me this award, was my first challenge partner, so it is only fitting that my latest partner(s), Evie and Beth McCord of EB Bead and Metalworks, are on my list. Beth writes their blog, giving us a look into their studio and sharing the hand and heart work of running a metals-enameling-lampwork business. Their collaborative pieces are a celebration of nature and the elements  - and a treat for the eyes!
Modern Nature Studio.  Kathleen Lange Klik, an extraordinary jewelry artist and photographer, inspires me with her rich, creative world at Modern Nature Studio. Blog hops are a great way to discover new artists, and that’s how I first found Kathleen and her lovely blog. I can still remember clicking on her entry and being instantly captivated.  If you’re looking for artistic expression that is beautiful, striking, inventive and unique, you will find it here.

Riverlea Beads. Shelley loves experimenting – with beads at her Riverlea Beads blog, and, as a foodie at Riverlea Foods. She shares so many aspects of her personal creativity with her readers. Whether it’s a new beading pattern or  a gluten-free tower of peanut butter and chocolate, there’s always something luscious to look at (and try for yourself) on her blogs.
Sweet Freedom Designs.  I walked into Lesley’s brick-and-mortar bead story nearly 2 years ago, and entered a sanctuary brimming with awe inspiring, creative jewelry. Her pieces were full of movement, texture and form and I left her store with a redefined sense of just what's possible with glass, gemstones and metal. If you don’t live within driving distance of Augusta, you can take a virtual tour on her blog, where Lesley shares her process of creation as well as her finished pieces of art.
Thank you again, Mandy, for being a great beading friend, and for choosing my blog for this award!