January 21, 2012

Tigers Eye and Gold - bead weaving that looks like fine jewelry

I love the mystery of getting "assortments" from beading places. Sometimes I get the dreaded ugly beads, which I quietly shuffle to the back of my boxes and sometimes I get something a little unique that I know I will use SOMEHOW -  I received a square cut cabochon of tigers eye that I knew would fall into the latter category.

To get myself thinking on patterns for the Red Woman's (Lady Melisandre) necklace I am planning for a giveaway to coincide with the start of season 2 of Game of Thrones I decided it was time to tackle the idea of netting the neck band.

I started by bezel setting the Tigers Eye in peyote stitch - it is very close in size to the CZ ruby I picked out as the center stone for the Red Woman's necklace.

Once I was done with the bezel setting it was time to get started on the band - I have worked netting before - but I wanted a specific look to the netting to really accent the color in the stones. The gold seed beads are 11/0 and the brown here are 15/0.

For the band I was not sure if I wanted to use these beads or pick up some other motif. I worked this small piece of netting from left to right and you can see me altering the netting until I had exactly the look I wanted for the bracelet band.

At first I thought the pure gold was the way to go - after all the necklace I am planning will be opulent in the extreme and very golden. I tried interspersing hex cut beads to kick up the sparkle. I felt this gave the netting and awkward look and did not make a nice shape. Next I tried all gold. with some of the brown at the neds of the netting.

This was ok - but it did not have what I really was looking for, finally I tried the brown beads as both the end points of the net - in a picot and as the joining beads in the netting. This was the look I wanted - intricate - yet lush and opulent. Here is one half of the band worked - not yet connected.

Now that I knew I had what I wanted - I needed only to finish the band of the bracelet. which I did - I will say that I feel the joining on one side seems a bit awkward -

I do not know if this was the beads or simply how it ended up joined - or how the beads are seated. When it is worn or seen even I do not see it - but I see it in the photo a bit.

Up in the corner of this photo you can see the fluorite coin shaped bead that became the simple clasp - I finished it with a small picot of the brown beads.

It picks up all the colors in the bracelet and looks fabulous. Below is a beautiful photo of the final piece -

Now onto the Red Woman's necklace - or Lady Melisandre's necklace!

2012 - Finally Getting a Start on the New Year

I had some family stuff happening and a bit of the Holiday Blues but I am getting back into the swing of things with working on my beaded creations. I am going to start with a post of some of the custom designs I made for the holidays:

First was a Custom Order from Etsy - this was for a 4 year old girl, and she wanted one of my snowflake necklaces done in pink. Considering the age of the recipient, I asked if memory wire would be acceptable instead of a chain, since it stands up to wear and tear, has no clasp, and will be able to expand to fit the child as she grows. the resulting necklace is below.

Snowflake Memory Wire Necklace - Custom Order 2011

I also did custom work for the older sisters, each a pair of earrings I believe the ages were 8 and 12:

Oldest girl, simple stunning drops made with sterling silver findings, I solder the jump rings for added durability.
The request for these was very small drops, something girly, these are tiny star shaped flowers in 2 shades of amethyst.

Next up was another necklace - this time it was for an adult. Jewel tones, 17 inch length, modeled off of my lamp worked  bead bracelets which have received quite a bit of attention. I was incredibly nervous about this piece - I assigned it to myself and it was for one of my sisters.

Detail of my sister's necklace.
Overall picture of my sister's necklace.
One of my nieces had fallen totally in love with a lariat I had posted on my Etsy and Artfire shops, so I decided to send it to her rather then making her a new design. This was her necklace:

My beach inspired lariat - long enough to fit over the head.

My other niece tends to be a bit more like me - a bit out there and whimsical - and I know she likes earrings for going out and such. So, for my other niece I made a pair of drop earrings with these fabulous carved skull beads in turquoise and silver:

Faux Turquoise - Carved Skull Earrings.

My final requested creations were a pair of bracelets. One was requested for the buyer's mother - streamlined and classy, and one of a kind - just like her. For his mom he liked the lamp worked bracelets. This was the final design - it had a bit in common with a scaled down version of my sister's necklace.
Detail of bracelet. Although it looks black the stripes in the lamp work bead are actually a very deep purple.

Overall picture of bracelet.

The other was for his aunt - a watercolor artist who lives in Puerto Rico - so something colorful and that had a unique design. For her bracelet I decided to use wire and bead weaving together to form a seamless whole - I think it came out stunning and am intending to make a similar piece for my shop in the near future!

Detail of Aunt's bracelet.
Overall picture of Aunt's bracelet - I almost forgot to photograph this - please excuse the gift wrap!
I also had custom orders for several pairs of my snowflake earrings - and a purple drop pendant which in the rush of the holiday season I completely forgot to photograph! A pair of my snowflake earrings is pictured here - the custom sets were for a pair in Burgundy Red and Sheer White, and a set done in all gold. 

Teal Snowflake Earrings.

This was my first year doing custom jewelry designs for the holidays - and I feel very proud of the work I did - it not only met with the approval of the customers who requested my work, but everyone who ordered an item has been in touch to let me know that my work received rave reviews by the recipients.

 I am truly hoping with the year to come Artem Decorare can continue to grow and prosper as I make new connections and build my business!

October 20, 2011

Organization & Small Spaces

I live in a pretty small apartment, I do not live alone, and I like to craft. This leads to some major space constraints! My beading studio is in our second bedroom, with the washer and dryer, our huge printer, a spare bed (futon) and a television. The room is pretty small to begin with so it is a good thing I mostly work with beads which are small too!

The best advice I have on organizing a bead collection is to pick a single type of container or method and standardize everything to this method as much as possible. Many bead artists use different methods but I think all the most successful methods use one way to store everything. My choice was part economy and part simplicity - I chose simple plastic beading trays from a local craft store. They cost about two dollars each, they have 17 compartments and they provide a nice uniform organization method. These are NOT perfect, my green seed bead tray has been dropped once or twice and is pretty muddled at this point, but they do work!

I tend to start with color when I am looking to begin a new piece and with bead weaving this means I am usually starting with seed beads. So my seed beads are in trays by color, sometimes I have mixed colors that make sense together like red and pink. If I ever have enough of these shades to split them to their own tray then I can just add a tray and relabel.

Once I had all of my seed beads labeled by color I started on the rest and chose to separate them by size. The reason for this was simple - although I have lots of 4mm beads I rarely have more then 2-4 different beads for each color family. However I did separate them into finishes, so I have glass pearls 4mm, and glass beads 4mm and crystals 4mm. I continued this method with 6mm beads. I have 8mm beads I use as well but not as many right now so they are separated into pearls and an 8mm and larger tray.

Some special types and beads earned separate trays as well I have one where my cabochons are wrapped in foam sheets, another where lamp-worked beads are kept wrapped as well. Gem chips I inherited from my godmother have a tray of their own - I finally found a bracelet that makes wonderful use of them but that is for a later post!

What about all the rest? Findings have a tray that as I acquire more will be separated into gold finish, silver finish, copper finish and gunmetal finish. Finally I have two larger older gray trays that have removable separators that are abysmal at keeping small beads apart, these I have labeled miscellaneous and they hold all the various items that one acquires working with beads, from odd clasps to beads that are special or that I have very few.

My work space itself is a folding table so that we can use the room for other purposes if we have company. The TV has a computer hooked up to it full time so I am able to access the internet or update information at my studio if I want. Mostly I use it to stream music or have video playing in the background while I work.

So that is how I organize my beads - what do you use to organize yours?

October 7, 2011

House Stark Necklace

One of my very best friends has a podcast she does about the HBO Series “Game of Thrones”. I also watch the series (loved the books!) and between seasons thought it would be intriguing to create some jewelry inspired by the series. My first project – in my mind – of course had to be about the Starks. The sigil for the Starks is a dire wolf. I found some graphics around the web to start me in the right direction; the challenge was going to be creating a beading chart that would reflect the house sigil.

I decided to work in brick stitch and downloaded the free graph paper over at Fire Mountain Gems, my first attempt ended up looking a bit like a black alligator. Truly frightening! 

My first attempt is pictured here in all his failure - the snout is too narrow - the teeth look silly, the eye looks like a mistake...

So, I went back to square one and worked on a new beading design. I simplified the teeth and made them larger; I made the patterning in the body of the wolf much more planned. The final result was fantastic!

Now I needed to find a necklace worth hanging my dire wolf from… So I turned to my beading binders. 

These are filled with everything from sliced and diced books and copies to randomness from the web. I found an Ecuadorian medallion patter that I liked, and it seemed like the dire wolf would fit between two of the medallions, or I could stack them, I was not sure. I used many of the same beads I had used on the dire wolf head and got to work.

In the end the wolf head would not fit between the medallions, so I chose to work 5 of them – one for each of the stark children. Then I worked a simple bead-woven band so the necklace was about sixteen inches long. Finally I made sure the dire wolf was securely tied into the center medallion. This included taking the joining thread all through the central medallion. The joining point looks delicate but is very sturdy.
I was quite proud of the piece when it was completed.

 I have several other projects planned from the first book, but before April comes I want to make sure I have a few done from the second book as well!

You can check out my studio on Art Fire here: http://www.artfire.com/ext/shop/studio/artemdecorare

October 6, 2011

How an Ugly Bead Became my Favorite

The dreaded ugly bead!
When ordering beads I love to add a bit of mystery with assortment packs, sometimes I get something really fantastic - and sometimes I get the dreaded ugly beads. In one of my last orders I received what I certainly considered an ugly bead.

First it was huge, I mostly use seed beads at roughly 2mm, this pearl is 5x the size. Then there is the color, all I could ever picture were huge pumpkins. I buried these- and forgot.

 Then the other day I wanted to make a quick necklace - and decided to look over my larger beads. It was fall now and the pumpkin color seemed more appealing. I took these out and decided to try a larger bead pattern I had found on the korean site Art Beads. I paired gold beads with the pearls - and hoped it would all work out...

It so did not work.
So, now I had ugly beads and an ugly necklace. I was certainly thrilled. And for ideas all I could keep thinking of was pumpkins, now at some point I heard about Squash Blossom Necklaces. I found some pictures where the blossoms to the sides were graduated, and though that would work well with the graduated loops I had already. I really like working with floral motifs and had previously embellished a daisy chain bracelet with leaves. So i decided the necklace really could not get any worse and gave it a try.

Unorthodox Stopper
 Using small pointed leaves and small tubular herringbone flowers, I started to embellish my disaster. The leaves are in a transparent olive, the blooms are in cream soda and peach lined crystal. The flowers start out very small and are barely cupped at this point - like mini blossoms.

Here you can see my unorthodox "stopper" I wrap the thread around a folded post it and clamp it with a small binder clip. Try it - it works better then a bead you have to take out later in my opinion!     

Soon I knew I had something really fantastic started - and the challenge became finishing it. To give my non-beading friends an idea of time - at most I picked up 10 seed beads at once. On the flowers they are worked 2 beads at a time. I was working 2 embellishment strands. One was green vine and leaf, the other was another gold strand and random flowers.

Here you see leaves worked ahead of the flowers.

Here you see how large the blooms were in the center.
After many hours - and alleve tablets - I had the embellishment done. However I had this lush embellished pearl strand held with post its and binder clips. I decided to finish it with a gold herringbone rope and taggle and loop created from gold lined crystal hex beads and gold lined crystal rocialles. I am still pondering adding a few details to the toggle.

By the time I reached this point I think I had worked on this necklace 30 or so hours. It became a labor of both wonder and love. I mean I had really disliked these beads and written them off as nearly unuseable.The final piece is to me is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

Here is a detail of the beads - it just looks lush and rich and fantastic, I almost can not believe this piece of artwork came from my hands. I guess this will teach me to write off ugly and unuseable beads in my bead stash! I actually have similar pearls in a lavender purple and may try something similar with those, wish me luck!