To Fresh Starts

This is what the work surfaces in my bead studio looked like a few days ago. The holidays had taken a toll! Seed beads commingle with metal files and hammers hover perilously close to stacks of delicate rose montees. Some packages await opening, others need posting.

And here's my bead table this morning. It's home to just one project … and my list of goals for the new year. I'm using Lisa Jacobs' 2014 Creative Business Planner, which asks for 25. I've committed to 16, some mini-steps, some serious strides. All promise a very creative 2014.

Intent on a goal-friendly environment so I can concentrate on said creating, my clean-up extended to the entire studio.

My thinking corner, which just 24 hours ago was piled high with the detritus of
December projects, is now a quiet spot to dream and plan.

Books and catalogs are tidied on their shelves.

Beads are closeted away by color and size in their bins and boxes.

Who doesn't love a fresh start and a clean slate?


Winter Blues - December ABS Challege


Ever since  Wassily Kandinsky's "Winter Landscape" was selected as the inspiration painting for the Art Bead Scene's December challenge, a copy has graced the wall of my studio. It has saved many a drab and dreary December afternoon - during a bout of the winter blahs, a glance at the wall is all it takes to remind me just how dazzling a winter day can be.

Kandinsky uses bold lines and colors to create the mood. My eye was immediately drawn to the winding road, and the bottom strand of my necklace is woven in a Beadinfinitum variation of herringbone to mimic its curves and colors. The focal bead, by Jessica Herrell, brings in the dark blues, purples and reds of the hillside.

The blue, yellow and green brush strokes in the sky are echoed in the accent beads in the top strand, also by Jessica Herrell. Following Kandinsky's lead, I made liberal use of pinks along with small pops of red to warm up the coolness of all that wintry blue.

If you're looking for some bright hues to chase away the winter blues, head over to the Art Bead Scene Flickr page to see more of this month's Kandinsky-inspired designs.


Two Spools, a Dozen Needles and One Rolling Hop

When challenged by Christine Altmiller of One Kiss Creations to create something using vintage wooden spools she found while antiquing, my first thought was: "How can I use needles in my design?" Not just in the execution, but in the design itself. My mom always had a needle in her hand when we were growing up, whether she was sewing our clothes, reupholstering the furniture, making drapes, darning socks or sitting down after dinner with her needlepoint. We loved to watch her take out the trussing needle, cut a length of colorful cotton thread and sew up the Thanksgiving turkey to secure the stuffing! It's a tradition I continue with my own family.

While talking about Christine's challenge with my husband, Dan, over dinner, he suggested cutting the spools in half (which would definitely increase my design options) and offered to do the job himself.

Holes were drilled in the center of each spool, which were then screwed into a block of wood to prevent them from flying across the deck.

The spools arrived with this lovely card from Christine, and a selection of seed beads in the same colors as the card. How could Christine know that I've never been able to resist the lure of a closed door and love to imagine the lives that are being lived out behind them? You'll find photographs of ancient doors, rustic doors, and ornate gateways in every room of my house. Second design consideration solved: Christine's card gave my project its color palette.

I selected the largest and smallest spools for my design and began researching the best way to paint them. Deciding that metallic spray paint was the way to go, I built a paint booth and began testing colors on some unfinished wooden wheels. I decided that two coats of primer followed by five coats of paint would yield the depth of color and coverage I needed. I chose Valspar's Brushed Nickel and Oil Rubbed Bronze, and left them to dry on the counter, resting on the openings in those plastic sleeves that hold beading wire on the spool. When Dan came home, he thought I had decided to make bracelets. (They look pretty cool as bangles, and I do have more spools…)

But I had chosen something a little more ornate for Christine's challenge, a necklace with a softly colored, more Elizabethan design.

A friend recently managed an estate sale and held back a few special pieces for me, including three exquisite rhinestone buttons. The top component, with its gentle slope, was easy to bezel, but the middle component, with its steep sides, proved quite a challenge. After several failed attempts, I remembered a technique Laura McCabe teaches to embellish hardware washers, and once I secured the button to peyote-stitched tabs, and linked them around the spool's rim, I was on my way!

The bottom component is an earwire form (recently learned in a Deryn Mentock class), inverted and embellished in ruby rondelles. The dangles are a collection of vintage needles, some of which I spray painted to match the spools.

I had so much fun with this project! Thank you Christine, for inviting me to join you in this challenge. If you haven't already, you'll want to make time to check out the unique and inspiring creations of those who have already revealed their designs: Janet, Cynthia (here and here), Tanya, Bobbie, Maryanne, Hope, Lisa, Liz and Kim.



October Art Bead Scene Challenge

Ohara Koson's woodblock print chosen by Art Bead Scene for this month's challenge was the perfect October inspiration. I love the way the warm grays give the whole scene a gorgeous glow!

And I had the perfect etched gemstone focal in the print's blacks, whites and grays. I think it suggests a full moon in a star-filled October sky.

Handmade glass disc beads by Susan Kennedy and Kimberly Branch, along with lampwork beads by Juls Beads and April Larson provide the accent beads for the Russian Spiral-stitched rope. The brick-stitched bail, embellished with branch and leaf from Nina Designs, gave me the opportunity to include just a touch of the painting's muted peach and golden yellow.

Now, click over to the Art Bead Scene blog to see some really fantastic designs by this month's challenge participants!



I'm so glad to see that hoop earrings are showing up on everyone's 2014 style lists, because I've been making lots of them in Deryn Mentock's Boho Bliss eCourse. Here are a few of my favorites.

Blue London topaz, firepolish and pearls
The palest green amethyst faceted rounds with blue and green kyanite rondelles
Three-sided ovals with crystals
Peridot rondelles and 6/0 three-cut seed beads

Deryn's course has me tackling lots of new techniques! Torch work no longer terrifies me, and a Dremel can be found center stage on my bead table these days. So much fun and much still to learn! But the combustibles and the power tools are going to be tucked away for the next few weeks while I return to needle and Fireline. I have a few challenge pieces to prepare.

If you'd like to join in the fun, Boho Bliss is open for registration until November 3rd.


Do you have a favorite?

I wonder if my sister, Janet, knew that October is Visit Your Local Bead Store month when she surprised me with a gift certificate to my favorite bead store for my birthday. Although my birthday is the first of the month, I exercised great discipline and waited until the middle of the month to head to Augusta and YaYa Beads. I had already contacted YaYa's owner, Lesley, to see if she was up for a challenge. Instead of redeeming my certificate in the usual way, I wondered if Lesley, whose style I adore, covet and (when my skill level allows) strive to emulate, would use Janet's gift to choose some items in the shop for me. When I arrived, a basket awaited , filled to the brim with goodies, in fabulous colors and shapes I would not have chosen myself. I'll be sure to post back here when these make it into my designs. Ideas are already forming!

The Blacks:

The Warms:

The Cools:

The Singles:

A visit to YaYa Beads is always a treat! Whether I'm indulging my inner traditionalist, or looking to push the envelope, I always find design inspiration from Lesley's made-in-store creations and her latest product finds. And how cool is it that she took the time to hand-select these unique and fabulous beads for me?

When I began beading four years ago, there were two bead stores in my suburb of Atlanta. Both have since closed their doors. Now, I have to travel an hour north or 90 minutes south, (or in the case of YaYa Beads, 3 hours east) when I need to coordinate colors and textures, learn a new skill, or solicit help dreaming up my next bead project. The camaraderie of fun and creative people eager to share their love of beads is always worth the trip. So, whether your favorite bead store is around the block or across the state, there's still time to plan a visit to show your support this month!


Summer-to-Fall Classics

This pretty scarf arrived in my mailbox last week, a birthday present from daughter Dani. The perfect Fall accessory, in all my favorite colors (just look at that muted teal!), I decided to think of it as a bold necklace, and design some simple earrings to go with it. Which cued me to open and fire up my birthday present to myself, a Lenk LPT-500 butane torch!

I recently won a spot in Deryn Mentock's Boho Bliss eCourse, which requires the use of a torch, and I discovered last week that overcoming my fears and watching the wire magically bead up in the flame into that shiny silver ball can be a lot of fun!

For my first pair, I focused on that lovely teal and worked through Deryn's lessons on drawing a bead on wire and hammering the earwire's surface for shine and strength. These are pretty and simple - fantastic with Dani's scarf, but classic enough to go with my entire summer-to-fall wardrobe.

My second pair is all soft browns and creams with a touch of black gold to pick up on the metallic threads infused throughout the scarf. I worked up copper samples of Deryn's handformed ellipse earwire at least a half-dozen times before attempting them in silver. Another autumn-inspired color palette, and again, those magical tiny balls. I'm really having fun with Deryn's class…next week - hoops!

Boho Bliss is chockful of techniques and still open for registration - come and join in the fun!


Creating with Cabochons Reveal

We are in for a real treat today - the reveal of Sally Russick's Creating with Cabochons Challenge. I, for one, can't wait to hop around to see what everyone was inspired to create!

I love the tribal trend, and when I pulled out a rounded Ammonite and triangular Dinosaur Bone jasper from my stash of cabs, they immediately suggested a pendant in the shape of a shield. A few hours browsing the internet for ancient weaponry and I had my design!

I let the reds and gray-browns of the jasper dictate the quiet, earthy color palette. These are not colors I normally design with, so I was happy to see a flash of iridescent blue-green in the Ammonite - my design now had some depth and an accent color that can always be found on my bead table.

I captured the large jasper with a Bead-Across bezel, a technique I discovered in Jamie Cloud Eakin's Dimensional Bead Embroidery. Larger beads are added at points around the base row, and then smaller beads are strung through them to secure the component. An intriguing touch of engineering and an interesting alternative for irregular shapes, it was the perfect decorative element for my shield-themed pendant.

The neckstrap combines firepolish beads from the pendant with lustrous labradorite rounds and rectangles. The deep ruby rondelles are faceted dyed jade.

Many thanks to our hostess, Sally Russick, for inspiring us with this challenge. I had forgotten how much fun bead embroidery can be and I learned some new bezeling, edging, and construction techniques. And I'm sure I am going to learn much, much, more as I visit the blogs of all today's participants. I hope you can join me!

Your Host: Sally Russick

Cheryl McCloud            


Pearls! Pearls!! Pearls!!! Blog Hop

I'm so happy that Michelle Buettner of MiShelDesigns decided to give pearls the spotlight in today's blog hop. Michelle's invitation was the nudge I needed to tackle a project I've been trying to bring to the top of my to-do stack for almost two years. That's how long ago I purchased the pattern for Shelley Nybakke's Satisfaction cuff. Substantial and statement-making (you won't find anything prim or stuffy at Shelley's Sturdy Girl Designs), the cuff uses Swarovski crystals and pearls to create texture and sparkle in built-up layers of right angle weave.

Once I completed the gunmetal base and had the outer channels filled with crystals, I began to question my original plan to use black pearls in this design. Side-by-side, the black brings drama to the piece, but the gray pearls add their own light and glamor. For my own Satisfaction, I intended to stray a bit from Shelley's design of alternating pearls and crystals in the center channel. So I compromised by using Light Gray in the pop-up sections of pearls/crystals, and Mystic Black in the recessed sections of sterling spacers and pearls. Drama and glamor - now that's a double dose of satisfaction!

I purchased the pearls for this design at The Beadcage in Columbus, Georgia. The Beadcage is a Swarovski distributor and always has a well-stocked and totally tantalizing wall of pearls to choose from, a great choice if you live in the Atlanta area.

Soft and classic, or saturated and edgy, pearls are everywhere this Fall - click the links below to see how today's participants are mixing them up in their designs.


Crystal Play

I'm longing for Fall, aren't you? Our afternoons are still peaking in the hot and humid nineties, so while lightweight and airy dictate the fabrics of the day, I CAN start the transition to fall with my jewelry.

This Snake-Belly Bangle combines autumnal earth tones with a summery hit of turquoise - the perfect transitional piece. It's from Anna Elizabeth Draeger's, Crystal Play, a book that makes me wonder why I don't reach for crystals more often when planning my designs!


A combination of two of my favorite stitches, peyote and RAW, this one can easily be finished in an afternoon. It sparkles with over 200 crystal bicones and gave me a chance to finally use my SuperDuo's. These two-hole seed beads give the bangle great structure, but I have one caveat - check the holes in these beads carefully before using - nearly a third of my tube had undrilled holes, requiring drilling the second hole mid-stitch.

My sister was visiting last month, and one afternoon I handed her a stack of my beading books to look through while I got dinner in the oven. Crystal Play was the one book she set aside, commenting that she would love one of every design! (Anna includes more than a dozen bracelet/bangle designs in her book, ranging from fun to fabulous to killer exquisite!)


So after I finished my bangle, I stitched up a Snake-Belly for Janet in season-spanning black and silver. She has two sons in high school and often finds herself drafted to chaperone at their school dances. She'll be one cool Mom rocking this on her arm!


Challenge of Travel Blog Hop - Atlanta Edition

This is the second year that Erin of Tesori Trovati Jewelry and the Treasures Found blog is sponsoring her Challenge of Travel blog hop, this time with a unique twist: stay home! Explore the town you call home, share the adventure on your blog, and design something to celebrate the experience.

Although it was one of the first places we visited when we moved to Atlanta 15 years ago, it had been several years since I'd made my way to the High Museum of Art on Peachtree Street in the heart of the city.

The High has fabulous permanent collections of Folk and Modern Art, but this summer there were two traveling exhibits I especially wanted to see - art from the Dutch Golden Age featuring Johannes Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring (the first time it's being displayed in the American Southeast); and the first-ever museum exhibition of Georgia jewelry artist, Gogo Ferguson. She designed the wedding rings for JFK Jr and Caroline Bessette and draws inspiration for her very elegant nature-inspired pieces from barnacles, seaweed, alligator toes and rattlesnake ribs. For a real treat, click on the photo below to see her creations.

Armadillo Scapula Necklace by Georgia artist, Gogo Ferguson

The High Museum is just a short walk from the home of Gone with the Wind author, Margaret Mitchell.

While Atlanta was becoming home to us, I took a year off from work and used that time to immerse myself in books by Southern writers. Mitchell and Harper Lee were already favorites - I had practically committed their books to memory, but that year, I read Flannery O'Connor, Charles Frazier, Anne Rivers Siddons, and everything I could find by Reynolds Price. Jimmy Carter's and Martin Luther King's writings made their way onto my bookshelf as well.

Erin's number one rule for us was to have fun with this challenge, and I certainly did that! Inspired to create something that celebrates both art and literature, I made a sheet of resin paper capturing passages from those great Southern writers. After tearing into small squares, I burned the edges, rubbing oil pastels into them while still warm.

Once my papers were stacked onto handmade eye pins and bookended with glossy rondelles, I combined them with colorful hand-painted, geometric Klimt-style blocks purchased from Artbeads several years ago. They hang from hand formed, rectangular earwires.

Since the materials are paper and mother of pearl, these earrings are super light, with a swing that Southern belle, Scarlett, would adore!

Thanks for stopping by. Now, please click over to Erin's blog and follow the links to see how all the other participants explored and celebrated the places they call home!


You Won't Want to Miss These Links

Beadweaving will always be my first love, but in the past year I've had fun branching out into other mediums, from wire to metal to resin. The more techniques, the more creative possibilities, right? When I learned this week that Cindy Wimmer has written a book on wire links, I couldn't wait for the print version and clicked over to Interweave to download the eBook.

Everything about this book is gorgeous! The first section features 15 links, all fun and fresh components I can't wait to include in my designs. The photography is breathtaking. Great step-by-step photos that had this novice wireworker turning out links in no time. They're followed by a section of inspiration from your favorite designers, using one or more links in their designs.

The wire links are listed by degree of difficulty, so I started with my favorite in the Easy category, the Engagement Ring link. The Projects section includes a bracelet of these links by Lori Anderson that I loved and wanted to try. I worked up a set of 8 in copper wire before allowing myself to cut the first length of sterling silver. I also stirred up my first batch of liver of sulfur - lots of firsts in this project!

Lori's bracelet was exquisite in her signature pinks and purples. I chose one of my favorite combinations from
Pantone's Fall Color report - Mykonos Blue and Linden Green. The dangles include kyanite, vintage glass,
Swarovski pearls and lampwork beads by Atlanta artist Kimberly Branch.

And those practice links in copper? I connected them up, added a focal clasp and a couple of charms. I love them just as they are!

You can pre-order Cindy's book from her website, or if you're as impatient as I was, you can download the eBook direct from Interweave. You're going to want this book in your library!


Fun with Ice Resin

My sister, Janet, sister-in-law, Kathy, and I met up in Augusta to enjoy some creative play time this week with an Ice Resin class at YaYa Beads. Great fun!

Kathy was a natural and created some really fun compositions. We all agreed her lovely dimensional pendant (top) took the Fabulous Award for the day. (Wish I'd snapped more photos of her work!) Janet's pieces (center panel) reflect her love of music and her gift of encouragement. I just love the flecks of torn ribbon in her second piece.

Now that I have my first pours (bottom panel) under my belt, I'm ready to dive into Deryn Mentock's Bezel Bootcamp, an e-course in bezel making, soft soldering and resin. If you're looking for a great way to broaden your jewelry making skills, registration is still open!


Bead Hoarders Blog Hop

We in the beading community are all hoarders to some extent. Our relationship with our treasures of glass, metal, pearls and gems is (on most days) magical, and we want more of that magic!

Lori Anderson of Pretty Things conjured up a fun way to lighten our secret (and not-so-secret) stashes in the form of today's Bead Hoarders Blog Hop. Simply take hold of some of those pretties we've been saving for a special occasion and design away.

I've been holding on to this gorgeous butterfly wing, bezeled in silver, for a couple of years. Originally purchased to create a necklace as a birthday gift for my oldest daughter, I simply couldn't come up with anything that worked. Believe me. I've woven several neckstraps, long and short, simple and over-the-top, but nothing appealed. Flipping through my copy of Jewelry Designs from Nature by Heather Powers proved to be the inspiration I needed.

Besides the focal, this necklace uses some absolute favorites from my stash: Saki silver hammered link, a hand-cast, braided brass bead, and two shades of beautiful apatite - roundels in pale green and rounds in dark blue-green. And the design is reversible!

My daughter's birthday is several months away, but I'm sending this off to her now. She recently left her career as a Special Ed teacher to start her own cottage school, opening next month. The butterfly is the perfect symbol of change and hope … and enjoying the beauty of the journey.

Thanks to Lori for inspiring me to finally give wing to this focal. I'm currently visiting my youngest daughter in Pittsburgh, and will have to wait until I get back to hop around to all the participants' blogs. But you'll want to click this link right now and get started!


A Challenge in Black and White

When Sally Russick of The Studio Sublime announced her Black and White Challenge, I jumped at the opportunity to step away from color, usually my primary design consideration, and focus simply on form and texture.

I splurged on a black dress for a recent trip to New England. This black dress:

I wore it to a dinner, a corporate affair, at a winery, on a cool Connecticut June evening, where a ruffle-edged white jacket, my favorite Laura Gibson dangles and statement bracelet were the only accessories needed. I'm now back home in Georgia. Gone are the ocean breezes, the cool morning mists. Gone, also, is the need for that elegant jacket. Sally's challenge was to design a piece of jewelry that uses only black and white. The challenge I gave myself was to design a necklace that would take my new black dress from Summer Staple to Something Spectacular.

I knew I wanted this project to be component based, so I began with some beaded beads.

Barrel Beads and an Octahedral Cluster from tutorials by beAd Infinitum, Discos from a tutorial by Sharri Moroshok of The Beaded Bead, and Ringlets, found in Marcia DeCoster's Beaded Opulence.

With their large holes and elegant texture, Gwen Fisher and Florence Turnour's Barrel Beads were the perfect choice to anchor the longest strand. I combined them with a collection of glass rings by Heather Trimlett that I've been saving for a special project. Completing this strand are embellished Ringlets and large Disco beads from Sharri Moroshok's easily adapted pattern. The Octahedral Cluster serves as the focal of the shorter strand, accented by Disco beads, short barrels, and perfectly named Black Tie Affair lampwork beads by April Larson of Bo's Beads.

The velvet ribbon is left long for times when I want to wear this strand long and casual with black linen and a tee.

The more-traditional short strand is 16 ½-18 inches and lays just above the neckline of my black dress. I think it would be divine on its own with a collared shirt.

Much thanks to Sally Russick for challenging us with this iconic duo. You'll want to check out all the black-and-white inspiration from today's participants.