Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Art Bead Scene: November 2017

This month's Art Bead Scene challenge inspiration is a painting by French impressionist Armand Guillaumin.  You can read more about the artist and the challenge over on the ABS blog HERE.  I'm pretty smitten with this color palette and have been looking forward to focusing on this challenge.

Title: Crozant, The Bouchardon Mill
By: Armand Guillaumin
Date: 1906
Medium: Oil on Canvas

This one really got my creative juices going!  Before I knew it I had a bunch of art beads hanging out on my bead mat.  The first project that I decided to work on was a great excuse to break out my brand new Now That's a Jig that I bought last month.  I had the right gauge copper wire to make the charm holder pendant that Heather Powers taught us at her Inspired by Nature retreat, so that was my starting point for my necklace.  Two of the charms that I got from the retreat's charm swap (one from Heather and one from my friend Anna of Saga Hus) were perfect for the artworks color palette.  I added in a ceramic feather headpin from Artisticaos to complete the charm grouping.  Instead of using leather for the necklace (even though I had some light purple leather that would have worked well), I decided to finish it with chain and some beaded links made with Czech glass and plated hematite. 

Keeping with a Heather Powers/Humblebeads theme... I had to make a pair of earrings with some earring charms that I bought from Heather at last year's Inspired by Nature retreat!  She had just debuted this style and I had to pick up a couple of pairs including a vibrant set that I think works well with the ABS inspiration painting.  I added some Czech glass dangles but otherwise kept my design minimal.

I have a couple more ideas rattling around my head for this month's challenge.  We'll see if I end up getting back around to them with all my show prep that I have to do.  Fingers crossed that I get into my creative groove and really pound some things out!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Artisans Create Together: November 2017 Color Inspiration Challenge

While I don't always get around to playing along with this monthly challenge, I love the Color Inspiration challenges over on the Artisans Create Together Facebook group.  This month is no exception with this muted fall palette and we've been given so many luscious inspiration photos to get us motivated!
As you know by now, I'm not always the greatest at making seasonal jewelry ahead of time... but this challenge got me going!  Not long ago I got some lovely, rustic fall leaf ceramic pieces from Artisticaos and I've been itching to design with them... this is the perfect excuse!

I ended up making a necklace and earrings set that make me so very happy!  I had just gotten several strands of new beads that felt perfect for this set including some plated hematite saucers in "mocha" and a strand of medium sized English cut Czech glass beads in really soft and lovely muted shades . (Lima Beads calls them "Glowing Amber Picasso" for what that's worth!)

I decided to stretch my brain and go asymmetrical for the necklace.  I strung a pattern of Czech glass beads with the mocha hematite as spacers on one side.  Some Czech glass rondelles in pale orange bring in some of the warmer tones from the pendant and keep it from being too neutral.  (This girl loves color after all!).  For the opposite side I went with links on blackened metal connected with textured brass jump rings.  I used a combination of Wild Horse Jasper puff coins and some funky grey-green Czech glass rounds flanked by the hematite saucers.  It's hard to see it in my photos, but the jasper has a glorious mix of earthy colors!  I finished it off with a brass plated leaf clasp to keep with the leafy, autumnal theme.

The closeup of the pendant lets you see some of the beads a little better as well as the wire-wrapped details that I added to the pendant's connector wires.  I grabbed a couple of beads from the body of the necklace as well as some Czech glass leaves for the dangles.

I'm so lucky to have snagged a pendant and earring charms that matched in color so well from the Facebook sales event.  For the earrings, I used more of the English cut Czech glass and mocha plated hematite and continued the mix of blackened and brass components.  I topped off the earrings with some orangey glass beads to bring more color into the mix.

Now pardon me while I turn on the fire place and snuggle up in a sweater with a kitty in my lap.  If I can't keep winter from coming, I can enjoy the finer aspects of cooler temperatures.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Inspiration for the Honey Do List: November 2017

Last year, my husband Eric has decided to issue me a design challenge each month to get me out of my comfort zone and to help clear out my bead stash... and we're continuing the Honey Do List for 2017!  I know that I'm not the only one who loves a good design challenge, so I'm hoping folks will continue to play along!  

Here's this month's inspiration and what Eric had to say about it:

I haven't really taken many pictures in the past month, so I took this chance to delve deep into older photos for something lost in the archives.  This is a really cool old stained glass window in the Schlitz Brewery building in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that really struck my fancy.  The colors and shapes should be a fun change from my usual naturalistic photos. 

The reveal date will be Monday, November 27th.  To make it super easy for you to participate and share your creations, I'll set up an Inlinkz link up so folks can add their blogs as they are ready.  Just stop by my blog starting on November 27th and join the fun!  I'll leave the link up open for a while... so you have plenty of time to add your links.  (Last month's is still open... check it out HERE.)  No blog?  No worries!  Feel free to send me a picture of your creation and some brief comments and I'll happily share in my blog post.  You can reach me at  The more the merrier, so I hope you'll play along with me this month!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Inspired by Reading: The Handmaid's Tale

I'm a little late to the book club party once again, but the October selection for the Inspired by Reading book club was the chilling (and not so terribly far-fetched) The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.  This was a second read for me of this book.  Originally published in 1986, it's amazingly relevant today... perhaps even more so than when it was written.  I still haven't watched the Hulu series but will have to wait until it's out on DVD. 

One of the things that I appreciate about Atwood's writing/storytelling in this book is that she made a very conscious effort not to include anything (technology, etc) that didn't exist in the real world.  (A good counterpoint is When She Woke by Hillary Jordan that has similar themes but non-existant technology like the ability to "brand" lawbreakers according to their crimes with skin pigmentation.  For instance, the main character has been found guilty of having an abortion and all of her skin has been turned bright red as part of her punishment.  It's a great book that you would probably enjoy if you liked this one.) 

Anyway, Atwood has written a book that should have every person really questioning how tenuous our freedoms can be... how easily they could all be taken away, possibly without a fight or objection as a "temporary" measure for public safety.  For women, people of color, those who identify as GLBTQ this novel should be especially troubling.  For me the take away really is a reinforcement to question everything... and to speak up loudly to protect those liberties we hold dear.  If you watch the news at all you should be aware at how certain factions are attempting to roll back rights and liberties to certain groups and to sow seeds of discord to further divide us as a country.  If you aren't alarmed and outraged, you aren't paying attention.

Stepping down off my soapbox now and getting back to the creative task at hand.... As much as I was engrossed in the book, I struggled to figure out how to translate something from the story into jewelry.  At first all I could really wrap my head around was the red of the handmaids' uniforms but that was't really feeling all that fresh or inspired. 

I kept coming back to a bracelet bar by my friend Erin Prais-Hintz of Tesori Trovati that I've had for a while.  Yes, I do realize that I went with something red, but it wasn't just the color that got my gears going.  I appreciated the message on the focal too... "Follow Your Path."  Offred had to follow her own path... figure out how to survive, how to navigate the strange and perilous circumstances that she found herself in under the new world order in what once was the United States.  She had to be brave and resilient... but she also had to be vulnerable and put her trust in others without truly knowing the wisdom of such trust. 

I chose the pewter colored leather for the braiding that I did using my new lucet from Mr. Humblebeads.  It went nicely with the bracelet bar but also made me think of the wall on the book's cover.  A small detail that the picture doesn't really capture is the little beaded dangle.  I used a Picasso finished Czech glass bead that coordinates with the focal, but also a triangular piece of plated hematite.  I liked the triangle for the seriously weird trinity between Offred, the Commander, and the Commander's wife.  I originally had planned to work a polymer clay bead that I made and/or some English Cut Czech glass into the design, but my braid was long enough that I decided to just keep it very simple.

Thanks for stopping by my blog to read my ramblings and to see what I've been making!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Inspired by Nature Retreat 2017

I meant to write this up sooner, but I feel like I've been running nonstop since I got back from this amazing three day retreat with Heather Powers in South Haven, Michigan earlier this month.  I still wanted to do a little mini wrap up of my weekend reconnecting with my beady friends, learning new things, and just generally getting inspired!

If you haven't heard of the Inspired by Nature Retreat, it's the brain child (love child??) of Heather Powers of Humblebeads.  This was the 7th year of this event that is held in Heather's home town each October and my second year attending.  The last couple of years the whole event has been held at the Riverbend Retreat Resort set on a large piece of property along the Black River.  It's the perfect place to get back in touch with nature and your creativity!

After having some travel glitches last year, I decided to drive to South Haven this year.  Luckily for me, a fellow jewelry maker who lives on the East side of the Twin Cities was interested in road tripping with me!  A long drive is always more fun when you aren't alone!  Anyways, I picked up Anna Pierson of SagaHus and we set out on our adventure.  The first leg of our journey took us as far as the Chicago suburbs where we met up with two other retreat goers for a beady slumber party at Monica Pena's house before making the rest of the journey on Friday morning.  Having our priorities in order, Anna and I did stop for a wine tasting along the way to South Haven!

Day one of the retreat started out with getting settled in, getting our goody bags, and doing our charm exchange (so great to see what everyone came up with!).  Our first project started with making some fun polymer clay molds that we would then use to make polymer clay beads later in the day.  While I found the process fun and interesting, my results were mixed.  I learned some things that I think will make any future attempts go smoother, but mostly it's about practice.  Heather's beads are always so perfectly shaped and even.  Mine turned out a bit more on the lumpy gravy side!  

The top picture shows some of my molds.  The bottom are beads before painting.
We didn't completely finish with this project before it was time for our early dinner reservation in town at Taste... painting would just have to wait!  After dinner it was still a little light out and the weather was mild so we took a little stroll down to the pier and lighthouse.  It was lovely and a little magical to see the sunset over Lake Michigan!  After dinner and our stroll, we kept working on our polymer clay beads.  Some of us actually got painting done, but not this girl.  I work a bit too slowly!

Most of the group after dinner!

What a view!  I'm so glad that we took that walk.

After a good night's sleep and a filling breakfast, we were all ready to begin our next big project on Saturday.  Today was the day for the star of the show... Heather's amazing faux tin process!!  For obvious reasons, I can't share the magic of the process, but I did want to show you a few pics from the day.  One thing that I can attest to, is that having a good file made all the difference working on these components.  I have always hated filing... like, hated with a purple passion!  I can't honestly say that it's my favorite thing, but at least I'm now able to file metal edges smooth without wanting to bang my head agains the way!  No more spending stupid amounts of time filing metal only to to find that I've somehow managed to make it sharper!  (Seriously, don't ask me how, but this was apparently my super power in the past.)  Anyway... pictures!!

Are you good with puzzles?  Making the most of the space I had on my copper sheet!

My bracelet bars:  These are the only pieces that I got completely done... filed and sealed.  

We had a decent amount of down time during the faux tin process, so I finally got back to painting my beads from day one.  I didn't finish the process, going back to sand and add more paint is still on my post-retreat to do list.  You may sense a theme here...

These still need sanding and maybe some metallic accents!

Dinner was pizza and salad at the cabin.  We all hung out chatting and continuing to work fairly late into the night.  Several of my cabin mates toddled back to our little cabin for night caps of wine and cappuccino (not at the same time!).  

Sunday funday and we still had more to learn and make before heading home!  First up, Heather taught us how to do some cool braiding with leather and a lucet (i.e. an amazing fork that Jesse, aka Mr. Humblebeads, made for each of us to keep).  Getting this braid started was tricky for this girl who has never known how/been able to braid anything ever!  I'm so glad that I stuck with it through the awkward first stages because the end result is amazing.  I had some issues finishing the braided ends and Heather had to help me.  If I can't figure out how to do it all pretty on my own, I do have a back up plan that involves bead caps.  Stay tuned... I'm going to try it again very soon!   

The beginning stages of my braid on my trusty new lucet fork!

Forks up!  All hail Mr. Humblebeads!!
I'm really very proud of the finished bracelet... and not just because it's the only thing I actually finished at the retreat!  In all seriousness, for me it's not about how many finished pieces I leave with, but about what I learned.  By that standard, this year's Inspired by Nature Retreat was a huge success!  Anyway, back to the bracelet... other than Heather's disk bead and the jump rings, this piece is totally hand made by this girl right here.  This is the first time I've managed to make a toggle bar that I'm completely happy with... and I think I've learned the secret to making more in the future.  

The finished product!
Running behind a little bit, we ended up having lunch and then doing one last quick project before hitting the road.  Heather taught us how to use the Now That's a Jig system to make a really cool focal for a charm necklace.  We all had 20 brand new charms to choose from to decorate the pendant so the hard part was deciding which ones to use since they were all so fun and fabulous!  I'm excited to say that I went home with one of the scratch n' dent jigs that we were using for class so I'm eager to play some more with my new toy.

Full disclosure: I finished this at home after the retreat.
One last item before we all finished loading our cars and headed out... the group photo.  It was cold, windy, and a little rainy so we all huddled (for warmth and to fit!) on the porch while Jesse snapped the picture.  What a fun group of ladies (and one lad) to spend the weekend creating and laughing with!  Thanks to all (especially Heather and Jesse!!) for another wonderful event!

End of retreat group photo:  Can you tell it was a tiny bit windy??
Not wanting to lose momentum after I got back home, I sat down to finish filing and sealing the faux tin earring charms that I had started at the retreat and get the earrings all finished up.  I love how these little cuties all look.  The last pair is a keeper for me since I discovered that they were a great match for a newer top in my closet.  Now I have to get brave and decide what I'm doing with some of the larger "tin" pieces that came home with me.  Hopefully you'll see some necklaces and other goodies from me before too long.  

My keepers.
It's not done yet, but I had a third piece from one of the patterns and I know what I'm going to do with it.  My plan is to rivet the smaller faux tin piece to some of the etched metal that I did at Bead & Button.  Here's a sneak peek:

Thanks for stopping by and following along with my Inspired by Nature Retreat exploits!!  If you have the chance to take a class with or attend a retreat with Heather, you should totally make it happen... you won't regret it. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Honey Do List: October 2017

Last year, my husband Eric has decided to issue me a design challenge each month to get me out of my comfort zone and to help clear out my bead stash... and we're continuing the Honey Do List for 2017!  I know that I'm not the only one who loves a good design challenge, so I'm hoping folks will continue to play along!  

Here's this month's inspiration and what Eric had to say about it:

Last month I took an insect photography class at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum so I figured one of those shots would be a good bet for this challenge.  The day of the course was insanely windy so taking pictures of moving insects atop briskly moving flowers was a challenge!  Luckily I got at least one decent shot of a Painted Lady take the idea and fly with it!

Just a few weeks ago we had Painted Lady butterflies all over the place.  I'd go for a walk and accidentally scare up droves of these little guys ahead of me.  I really like the picture that Eric got of the butterfly with its proboscis extending into the pale yellow flower.  It's pretty but not super showy with its wings closed.  This seemed like a good opportunity to use some of my more neutral toned butterfly components.

First up, I chose a pair of butterfly charms by Michelle McCarthy of Firefly Design Studio in a rich butterscotch and really dark brown.  I wire wrapped some Czech glass crullers with a nice Picasso finish with some topaz crystal rondelles and coordinating metallic fire polished round Czech glass.  The charms are so rustic so I liked the addition of a tiny bit of sparkle!

As luck would have it, I scored several butterfly inspired pieces from the talented and lovely Erin Prais-Hintz of Tesori Trovati in a special Art Bead Scene Lounge Facebook sale last month.  One of the sets of earring pairs was pretty perfect for this challenge.  Since they were pretty tiny little charms, I didn't want to add anything too large... but I also felt like it would be a cop out to just add ear wires!  I added some small plated hematite, Czech glass, and garnet beads separated by gold plated spacers to pull out some of the many colors in the petite charms.  These are long and skinny and absolutely elegant!

Another goody that I unearthed while looking for art beads for this month's various challenges was a wooden tile by Skye Jewels.  I bought several from Marie a few years ago in a destash including one with a yellow/orange butterfly.  I didn't have her drill most of them (including this rectangular tile) so I had to do some searching to find a filigree that would work wrapped around it.  I chose to string the necklace mostly with a mix of Czech glass and a few pearls with small sized hematite, garnet, and smoky quartz beads as spacers.

Lastly, as a sort of bonus, I made one more small pair of earrings with some teensy brass butterfly charms and some of the beads I had spread out on my bead mat for this challenge.  While not an exact match for the necklace, I think they coordinate pretty well and could easily be worn together.

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Friday, October 20, 2017

We're All Ears: October 2017

The inspiration for this month's We're All Ears challenge over on the Earrings Everyday blog is all about the moon.  Ok, it was actually supposed to be the Harvest Moon but I used some creative license and went with the moon in general... mostly because I didn't have anything that felt harvest-y.

Photo by Ganapathy Kumar on Unsplash

I started out looking for art beads to use... not feeling confident that I had anything at all.  Surprise, surprise!  I actually found a set of moon and star charms from Michelle McCarthy of Firefly Design Studio.  I paired them with some chunky faceted chalcedony, Czech glass, and, for sparkle, crystal studded rondelles.

Never satisfied with making just one pair for this challenge, I put on my thinking cap and came up with a second design.  I had a pretty tiny scrap of etched copper left over from a past project... just enough to cut two very small crescent moons from it.  At first I was thinking that I would rivet the crescents to a larger "full moon" made from hammered Arte Metal circle blanks.  (I used two different sizes of my ball peen hammers to get the "craters.")  With how tiny the copper pieces were, I felt like I'd end up covering up most of the shape.  Plan B to the rescue!  I ended up just punching one hole in each copper crescent and then using jump rings to hang them in front of the circles.  Above my dual moons I wire wrapped some moonstone beads with matte bronze Czech glass spacers.

Don't forget to stop by the Earrings Everyday blog to see what everyone else was inspired to make HERE.