December 2009

Beads are fabulous for making jewelry, but their usefulness does not end there.  Beads are also great for making tassels and beaded trim that can be used to decorate clothing and home accents.  I made the tassel that adorns this little evening bag out of tiny cylindrical beads called Delicas.  I made it using a tassel making technique created by Ava Farrington in her book Tassel O’ Beads.  The technique is a good one because you can make a fairly thick tassel without any bunching at the top that you can get with other techniques.

I’ve made a few other beaded tassels.  One of them is made of several tassels like the one on this purse that are then beaded into one larger tassel.  It hangs from a floor lamp in my bedroom.  Two others form columns that frame some beadwork in an art piece I made.  I’ve also made tassels as the centerpiece of necklaces.  And while I have not outfitted any strippers or belly dancers yet, who knows…

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This is one of the newest additions to my bead stash – a huge strand of carnelian shapes from the early to mid-1900’s.  It’s hard not to respond to the sheer mass of the strand, it’s about 42 inches long, contains roughly 100 pieces, and it’s heavy.

What’s really special is the unique beauty of each individual piece – there are lovely variations in size, in shape, and in coloring that make each piece special in its own right.  I plan to approach designing jewelry using these beads by doing some sketches first.  I’m not sure where I’ll head yet, it will come when I sit down and commit to the design process.

Newly manufactured carnelian beads are available as well.  Many of the ones I have seen have been treated by heat and other means to enhance their color.  The resulting beads have a deep red color but often lack any variation whatsoever.  I still buy them and use them, but it’s not the same as these rustic, weathered beads.

Maybe what I see happening with carnelian and other gemstone beads is like a microcosm of our society – one where the same stores and restaurants are increasingly found in every city and town – they have their place and purpose – but tucked away here and there are unique, independent businesses – gems of our communities.

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I’m still working hard on setting things – gemstone, glass, shell, rocks, you name it.  And, I’m branching out with the settings.  This necklace is one of my newer designs and I just loved putting it together.  I started with the white glass cabochon and wanted to accent the designs in it – they brought to mind twigs and leaves.  So, I cut tiny twigs and leaves out of silver, soldered then onto a silver base, and then soldered on the bezel ring that is holding the glass.  I further embellished the setting with a leaf stamp and random markings also meant to repeat the design reflecting twigs and leaves.

I tend to make beaded necklaces for most of my pendants but this one wanted just a few beads and mostly chain.  I used three dark fresh water pearls on one side and a faceted rhodonite bead and dark ruby crystal on the other and completed the necklace with darkened silver chain.  I even darkened the clasp and added one pearl and one crystal right at the clasp.  Learning to do more with metal has been a gratifying journey for me and I have so much yet to learn.  I care so much about each piece I make and am very involved with each while I am making it – carefully considering each element and its placement, editing and refining as needed.

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It’s almost Christmas, it’s cold, and I’m enjoying time spent sketching out new designs, soldering, working on a bracelet, and contemplating the design of a necklace that is almost done.  My tree is up and I love turning the lights on in the evening.  I have a collection of tiny sweater ornaments and I wanted to share three of my favorites with you.  I can’t pick a top favorite, I like them all too much, it’s a three-way tie.

I hope this Christmas season has your heart and home filled with friends, family, memories, and good times.  Enjoy your favorite ornaments and the things that are special to you.  Merry Christmas from The Bead Dreamer.

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This strand of beads belonged to my dear friend Frances Wright.  Frances loved beads and jewelry making, had a huge wonderful personality, and was one of those people who always made you laugh so hard you had tears in your eyes.  Frances was a member of the Bead Society of Southeastern Virginia, and I have been a long-time member myself.  We lost Frances suddenly few years ago and were all shocked and saddened.

Her family had no use for her beads and sold a lot of them to the Bead Society.  We used quite a few of them to initiate a project in her honor.  We named the project Frances’ Beads and made jewelry to donate to a local organization that helps women enter or re-enter the workforce by giving them an interview outfit.  Frances’ Beads has gone on to become an annual event.  I know Frances would be proud.

I remember bead shopping with her.  We were in Maryland at a bead show and we were both looking at some African beads.  Frances said I love these beads so much but I never use them.  I told her I loved mine too but I used mine and asked her why she didn’t use hers.  She said the strands were just so beautiful that she could never bear to cut them.  This strand of African beads is one I purchased from the beads Frances left behind.  It hangs in my workshop, it reminds me of her, and will remain a strand uncut.

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Project from Bugle Bead Bonanza

A reader whose screen name is beadnfun is the winner of a signed copy of Bugle Bead Bonanza from Lark Books.  I’m sure they will have lots of fun with bugle beads and the projects in this book.  I’ll put photos up if I receive them.

Above is another project from the book – a colorful bracelet that uses black to separate and emphasize the beautiful opaque bugle beads.  Thank you to Lark Books for allowing me the privilege of sharing four awesome books with my readers.  The community of beaders and jewelry designers is one that I’m passionate about and I love that four lucky winners will have the chance to expand upon their skills and knowledge with these books.

The books for the giveaways were provided by Lark Books.  The opinions I have expressed about the books are my own.

I’ve been in a de-cluttering mood lately.  I’m pretty neat, so my clutter situation is not that bad.  But, I do have some boxes with things I could stand to go through and one closet that is on the questionable side.  And I have gotten rid of some stuff.  It helps to just clear it and make some room.  However, some of what has been happening is that I pull out the old boxes, see beads, charms or something from a while ago, and see a different use for it.  That’s part of the story of how this necklace came about.  I’ll get to the other part.

Years ago, a friend asked me to make a bracelet that had some elements that reminded her of Texas.  I bought some brass charms and made a bracelet and earring set that she was happy with.  I had some charms left over and put them in a box and didn’t much think about them.  That is until my recent clearing out phase.  One of the charms was little brass cowboy hats.  I don’t at the present time have a use for little brass cowboy hats, but I did think, hmmm, how else could I use them…

The curve of the brim had a little art nouveau feel to it so I thought if I cut the brim from the crown of the hat, I could turn the brim part sideways, drill holes in the top and bottom, hang pearls from the bottom, attach the tops to a necklace and come up with something pretty.  Sounded like a plan.  So, I cut the hats into two pieces.  I did one or two at a time in between other projects.  Then I went to drill them.  We’re getting to the lemonade part.  Two broken steel twist drills and 20 minutes later, I realized – this was not happening.  I hated to lose all of the work of cutting the hats in half.  So that old saying came to me – when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

I realized the other part of the hat already had a hole in it and that I should modify my design to use that part.  So, here you see the resulting piece.  I love it.  I used garnet beads in two shapes to separate the little charms and completed the design with blush colored glass pearls.  Sometimes you’ve gotta go with how things are flowing and not fight it.  Here’s a photo of one of the cowboy hat charms before I started.

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