Thursday, June 30, 2016

Summertime!: Art Jewelry Elements June Challenge

The team over at the Art Jewelry Elements blog occasionally host themed challenges where anyone can play along... this is one of those months and the theme is Summertime!  They left it pretty open to interpretation, challenging us to make something inspired by what summertime means to you.   So, what says summer to me?  Here's a few things:  Long, sunny days; gin and tonics on the patio; trips to the beach (even though I haven't done that in summer since childhood); boat outings; bright colors; colorful butterflies and other insects; watermelon (even though I don't like to eat it).

Some summertime inspiration from the AJE team!

The first thing that came to my mind was sunny days... and I knew it was time to finally use one of my tiny collection of Jade Scott pendants that I've been jealously hoarding now that she stopped making jewelry components.  Even though the pendant is made of copper, its patina gives it more of the look of natural brass so I went that route.  I wire wrapped some lemon jade and dyed agate rounds along with a couple of Czech glass beads.          

On my recent trip to the Bead & Button show, I picked up a bunch of new beads from Golem Design Studio including some fun sunshine pattern lentil beads.  Let the sun shine in!  It's no secret that I love using Golem lentils in fun multi-strand bracelets based on a design by Lorelei Eurto, but with how many of them I just bought, I need to branch out in my design choices!  I ended up making a sunshiny necklace and bracelet that could be worn alone or as a set.

Thanks for stopping by!  You can see how everyone else interpreted Summertime over on the AJE blog HERE.  Or use the links below.  Have a happy and safe Fourth of July weekend!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Inspired by Reading: Drinking the Rain

This month's installment of the Inspired by Reading Book Club was Drinking the Rain by Alix Kates Shulman.  I can be a little picky when it comes to memoirs... I tend more toward those that are written with a lot of humor or are about someone with whom I'm more familiar.  So this is another one of those books that I never would have picked up on my own.  I really look forward to hearing what all the other book club members thought of it. 

My take on this book is it is a memoir of the author's mid-life crisis.  Maybe that's not entirely fair, but I guess I had a hard time relating to what she was going through over the period of time that the book covers.  When the author turned 50 and her kids were all out of the house, she decided to spend the entire summer pretty much alone at the family's extremely rustic (we're talking no electricity, phone or indoor plumbing!) beach cabin on an island off the coast of Maine.  Since my idea of "roughing it" involves a cabin with modern plumbing, electricity, and (preferably) air conditioning, I was already having a hard time understanding why she would do such a thing!  This is just the start of big changes for the author... her children are grown, her marriage is falling apart, and she seems to struggle to find relevance in the things that used to fill her New York City life.  There is certainly something to be admired in her efforts to live as naturally as possible off the land while leaving as small a "footprint" as she can, but it seems like she really takes it to an extreme to which I couldn't really relate.  I did finish the book, and it doesn't all take place in NYC or the nubble... but as the island is truly the heart of the story, I focus my thoughts there.

For my piece I decided to focus on the beachy setting of most of the book as my inspiration.  In particular, I thought about the sea gulls that Alix stole fresh caught fish from at the nubble.  I had one of Heather Powers' adorable Humblebeads pendants with a sea gull on it that I thought would be the perfect focal to represent life on the island.  I incorporated a couple of different colors and shapes of pearls (both natural, "shell," and Swarovski) to represent both the sea and the scene where Alix finds pearls in the batch of mussels she has cooked.  I mixed in some shell beads that I've been hoarding forever as well as some little coconut shell beads to keep it feeling tied to the sea shore.  I rounded out the design with some small Amazonite rounds, Fluorite rondelles, Czech glass, and some Picasso finish seed beads as spacers.

As a weird aside, I've noticed myself stringing way more necklaces lately.  When I first starting making jewelry, stringing was pretty much all I did as far as necklaces go... then I got better at making loops and entered a phase where almost all my designs involved wire wrapped links or simple links on head pins.  Now I guess I've found some middle ground and am a little more evenly split between stringing and wire wrapping.  I guess it's a combination of finally getting the hang of properly closing crimp covers (don't judge me... it's trickier than it should be!) and also using more waxed linen in my designs.

Ok, enough rambling from me!  You can see what the others in the group made over in our Facebook group HERE if you're interested in joining in the fun.  I'm sharing a day earlier than normal because of another reveal schedule for tomorrow.    


Monday, June 27, 2016

The Honey Do List: June 2016

This 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... we're calling it the Honey Do List.  I know that I'm not the only one who loves a good design challenge, so I'm inviting folks to play along!  

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

I wanted to use a shot from our recent trip to Oregon for this month's challenge.  I took this picture at the Japanese Gardens in Portland, where I noticed the reflection of the ferns on the top of the rippling reflecting pool.  I waited several minutes, dodging small children, until a koi happened by--making the shot even more interesting.  Take inspiration from the color palette, the fish, the ferns, the water, the clouds--whatever strikes your fancy!  

First off, I have to say again how impressed I am with this photo that Eric took... and really, his growing photography skills in general.  I know he may not always pick one of his pictures to inspire us, but it sure is fun when he does!  I sometimes wonder if has an idea of what he thinks I might pick to work with for a given challenge... or what he hopes I will choose.  I think that may have happened a tiny bit this time with this first design.

The starting point for this necklace was a lampwork bead that I got at a local bead show a while back.  (Sadly, I'm not sure of the artist's name... I think it is from Potekglass but I'm not 100% sure.)  I remember at the time that we were both enamored with it because it reminded us of a koi pond!  Fast forward a few years and I'm finally using it paired with a ceramic bead from Golem Design Studio and some silver plated and pewter accents including a chain tassel to complete the pendant.  The turquoise is a little out there for the photo's color palette, but I do like how the orange and white are in there!  I added a couple of Czech glass beads along the chain to complete this long, summery look.

Next up, I moved my focus more to the idea of the fern reflection and WAY away from the color palette.  I used a fun fern focal from Round Rabbit that has a great combination of green and turquoise.  (I seriously love what she does with her glazes!).  I chose an assortment of green and turquoise blue Czech glass beads as well as a few prehinite rounds with brass findings.

I have a couple of koi themed pieces from Green Girl Studios in my hoard... one pendant I liked so much that I've bought it in both bronze and pewter!  I figured now was as good of time as any to use at least one of them.  I'm in love with the combination of turquoise or teal with orange and wanted to play with that a little more here.  I'm almost tempted to keep this one for myself, but knowing that I still have the (more expensive) bronze version, I may be able to hold off.  I think I'll end up making a variation on this theme for myself at a later date.

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Friday, June 24, 2016

New Earrings!

Even though earrings really are my favorite things to make, I've been focused much more on one of a kind necklaces lately.  Since it's been too quiet on my blog this week, I thought I'd share a few summery pairs of earrings that I pulled together with some of my Bead & Button finds!

I've been itching to play with my new enameled charm pairs from Gardanne Beads since I bought them.  I love the rich colors in both of these butterfly sets and had fun matching them up with Czech glass from my hoard!  I've got more of her pieces gathered on the sidelines of my bead board waiting for me to have more earring time.

I also found time to give some ceramic beads some earring-making love!  I picked up a cute design set from Michelle McCarthy at Firefly Design Studio that I just added brass bead caps to for an easy peasy pair of earrings.  I also wanted to play with some of my new Golem Design Studio beads so I whipped up another pretty simple pair in bright greens.

I've got plenty more earring ideas rattling around in my head, but for now it's back to working on a couple of necklaces for upcoming design challenges.  I can't wait to share what I've been busy making in next week's reveals.  Have a great weekend, everyone!

Friday, June 17, 2016

We're All Ears: June 2016

Perfect for the start of summertime, this month's We're All Ears challenge from the Earrings Everyday blog is all about strawberries.    Here are a couple of the pictures that Erin chose to get our mouths watering and our creative juices flowing!  You can read more and see all the inspiration photos HERE.

[Photo credit :: Danielle MacInnes :: Unsplash]
[Photo credit :: Benil Benjamin :: Unsplash]
As much as I loved (and was made hungry by) the inspiration pictures, I found that I really didn't have anything especially "strawberry like" in my bead stash.  Never fear... I was headed to the Bead & Button Show!  Aisle after aisle, I kept scanning the booths looking for something appropriate to no avail.  That is until I stopped at Thornburg Bead Studio and found the lampwork glass of Nikki Thornburg-Lanigan.  She had just the thing... adorable lampwork strawberry head pins!  Squee!!

I made wrapped dangles from my sweet little strawberries and hung them and some Czech glass leaves from the new tiny hammered rings from Vintaj.  I think they turned out pretty simple, cute, and perfect for summer!  Pop over to the Earrings Everyday blog to see what everyone else dreamed up this month HERE... I'll be eating some strawberry rhubarb crumble if you need me!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Starfish Color Palette Challenge

Always a sucker for a challenge... I jumped at the chance to play along with the Starfish Color Palette Challenge that Sherri Stokey posed to the Love My Art Jewelry blog readers.  She couldn't have made it easier to join in if she had tried.  All you had to do is create something, anything, inspired by the photo below!  You can see Sherri's original post HERE to get more background on the challenge and to see some of her gorgeous work.

Despite the fact that I had other projects with looming deadlines, I had to go digging for some beads for this challenge.  I promised myself I would wait to actually MAKE things for this... I'd just get the beads out and LOOK at them.  Any guesses on how that worked out for me?  ;)

Even though I love making earrings, I've been a little remiss about creating much of anything lately so I decided that a batch of earrings was the perfect place to start this challenge!  I had several pairs of recycled glass sand dollars that I've been meaning to make into earrings.  This seemed like a good time to finally make that happen.  I made three variations with the sea foam and teal sets.  I still have a pale green pair waiting to be transformed, but they were too far outside the color palette for today's post.

Not the best photos... I was struggling with the light!

I also have a bunch of Vintaj Natural Brass sand dollar charms in my stash, so I whipped up a couple of pairs using them too!  I'm super happy how the embellished ear wires turned out on the pair on the right.

More light challenged photos... sigh.

Since the challenge is from Love My Art Jewelry, I didn't want to ignore my art bead stash entirely.  I picked out a gorgeous starfish pedant from Michelle McCarthy of Firefly Design Studio for this necklace.  This piece is the perfect embodiment of all things beach to me... the soothing aqua color, the adorable starfish pattern and texture, the water droplet shape... it's sand and surf at its finest!  I used a combination of Amazonite, Impression Jasper, and Czech glass in a variety of shapes and shades of aqua along with brass findings.  You can channel your inner mermaid even on the bleakest of winter days with this necklace!

I hope you'll pop over to the Love My Art Jewelry blog to see what everyone else was inspired to create!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

My First Bead & Button Show and Other Adventures

Living only five and a half hours from Milwaukee (and having family there!), I've been dreaming of going to the Bead & Button Show pretty much since I found out about it.  Each year something always came up that made it complicated to get there and I ended up saying year after year, "Maybe next year."  Well, this year was finally my year!

After getting my first big bead show under my belt at Bead Fest Summer in Philadelphia last year, I was more than ready to do some shopping a little closer to home.  (You can read about my exploits with classes and shopping HERE and HERE respectively.)  Eric and I loaded up the car last Thursday and began our road trip to Milwaukee for a weekend of beads, beers, family, and friends.    

I have arrived!  I was eager to get upstairs and start shopping, but I needed to commemorate this moment!

My shopping goals for this trip were to stock up on lovely art beads (I love buying them in person directly from the folks that made them) and to snag some more Czech glass beads in bulk.  I more than accomplished that!  Armed with a general idea of where some of my "must see" artists and vendors were located, wearing good comfortable shoes, and with my sweet husband carrying my tote bag we entered the show floor and got to work!  Blinded by the bright lights and sparkle but determined to do the show in a day (I'll tell you how that went a little later!), we made our way to one side of the hall to start our journey with our friends at Green Girl Studios and Allegory Gallery.

Clockwise from top:  Michelle McCarthy of Firefly Design Studio, Marcia Balonis, and Andrew Thornton and William Jones of Allegory Gallery

Ok, be forewarned... most of this post is just going to be eye candy.  I brought home an embarrassment of beady riches from Bead & Button!  I want to get this post up quickly so I can sit down and start making with all my new goodies.  :)    

Very first stop:  Allegory Gallery to pick up my destash loot and Luna Moth challenge kit and to check out all their new pretties... oh and give BIG hugs to Andrew and William of course!  Andrew was clearly burning the midnight oil making lots of lovely new pendants and beads before B&B!  I'm totally smitten with the multi-colored porcelain beads he made (there were more mono-chromatic sets too) and some of the new finishes for his porcelain pendants.  I'm sure I'll be snagging more of these up (if they still have any) when we visit in July for their Creative Camp!  

Porcelain lovelies from Andrew Thornton plus a cute bronze bat by Bob Burkett.

Andrew and William were sharing booth space with their family at Green Girl Studios, so we inched down the aisle only slightly for our second stop of the show!    As always it was a pleasure chatting with Greg and I was also happy to finally meet Cynthia.  I'm pretty thrilled with my haul which includes a pendant that I think will be showing up in one of my Honey Do List challenge pieces later this month!

So much Green Girl goodness!  Those top 3 are buttons!

Our next stop was to see the fabulous Michelle McCarthy of Firefly Design Studio... another one of my favorite artists!  Since Michelle hails from Florida, it shouldn't surprise you that so many of her pieces that I snagged have ocean themes and/or colors.  Per usual, I grabbed a fair amount of earring components plus some other fun goodies including a trio of bracelet bars.  

I love Michelle's glazes and am clearly addicted to her earring pairs!

Still not making out of our first aisle (much to my sweet husband's chagrin!), our next major stop was Gardanne.  I've been wanting to see her enameled jewelry components in person for a while but somehow missed her booth completely in my disorganized Bead Fest ramblings.  Anne makes some truly lovely enameled pendants and charms in colors that make me drool.  I can't wait to design with my newfound treasures!    

My haul from Gardanne... you see my color preferences continue to come through!

A quick stop by Diane Hawkey's booth yielded these treasures... the raven/crow may be for Eric. 

Despite originally planning to systematically go through the showroom floor aisle by aisle, I soon forced a deviation from that plan!  Wanting to hit my favorite art bead makers as early in the day as possible, we swung over to the middle of the show room floor to see the work of three amazing ladies:  Nikki Thornburg-Lanigan, Staci Louise Smith, and Marsha Neal!  Staci wasn't at the show, but luckily the other two ladies brought some of her goodies to sell.  Staci told me to give Nikki and Marsha hugs for her... so I made sure to do that before we moved on!

Polymer clay pendants from Staci and lampwork glass by Nikki... Some of you may know why I bought the little strawberries!

I see some fun earring making sessions in my future with Marsha's pretty ceramic pairs!
Eric and I took a little break mid-day and met his cousin Thor for beers and lunch.  It was fun to see and visit some of the historic brewery buildings in Milwaukee.  We need to get back there soon when we have more time just to explore the city without the beads competing for our attention!  Refreshed and re-energized after lunch, we headed back into the fray for more frenzied shopping, but it was already clear that our one-day plan just wasn't going to happen.  After walking a few more aisles and hitting up a few more vendors, we eventually threw in the towel and headed out to meet with all of our family for the boat time, drinks, and dinner.    

Having had time to regroup and strategize the evening prior, we arrived for round two at B&B right as the show opened on Saturday morning ready to hit the second half of the showroom floor.  This time we started on the opposite side of the room and worked faithfully toward the middle where we had ended on Friday evening.  Our first stop was Golem Design Studio and, boy, did I do some damage there!  Seriously, I'm a little embarrassed with how much I bought so I'll just show some of my favorites.  It was a joy to meet Vlad and Kremena in person and to see the full array of their gorgeous, colorful beads and pendants in person.  I was overwhelmed with the amazing variety of designs they brought with them!

A selection of some of my favorite beads I picked up at Golem!
As you recall, gemstones weren't on my shopping list for this show.  I recently stocked up on a LOT of gemstones at the Dakota Stones showroom sale (they are local for me), so I didn't feel like I could justify buying any more stones at this point.  Then we got to the Intrinsic Trading booth and all that went right out the window when we saw all the gemstone earring pairs!  This is one of those times that I can legitimately blame Eric for what happened next... I had picked out a few pairs of gemstones and was ready to move on but Eric insisted on continuing to shop for more!  (He really is a keeper!)   

Lots of jaspers, agates, and more!
In addition to the juicy gemstones and art beads, I picked up my body weight (ok, not quite!) in new Czech glass beads at the show.  Thanks to a recommendation from Erin Prais-Hintz I found a new to me glass vendor, Raven's Journey, from Seattle.  I was thrilled to find the glass "chiclet" beads that I use in my best selling earrings as well as my favorite flower shape in tons of new colors!  I had done some serious damage at Nirvana Beads the day before (mostly rondelles of various sizes plus some table cut flowers and pinch beads in fun finishes) so I should be in good shape for a while on Czech glass!

Yummy new Czech glass beads in some of my favorite shapes!
Rounding out my two day bead and jewelry making shopping spree were a few metal stamping and embossing tools as well as a clearance disc cutter.  I sure am glad we drove... my baggage would have been way over the weight limit!  We left the show mid-day laden with heavy bags of beads and jewelry making accessories ready for cold beers and a hearty lunch back with the family.

I feel bad that I really didn't get any pictures with Eric and his aunt and uncle, his three Milwaukee cousins, and the cousins's kids.  I'll blame it on the fact that we were all super hot and sweaty from the 91 degree weather and definitely not ready for our close ups!  We had a delicious, albeit VERY late lunch with the whole family and then went over to the first brewery of the day afterwards.  The gang said some of our goodbyes at this point and then Eric and I and some of the cousins went on to a couple of more breweries.  Eric and I ended our day with his aunt and uncle at this super cute brewery that is housed in an old mill.  Next trip we have to get back there in the daytime so Eric can take pictures.

Having to reenter the real world on Monday, we said good by to our family and Milwaukee on Sunday morning to begin the trek home.  Since Eric's agreement to take this trip was partially based on his getting to visit some breweries, we made a couple of beer-related stops along the drive.  I'm glad that one of them was a repeat visit to New Glarus Brewing, one of our favorite breweries.  They have done quite a bit with their grounds since the last time we visited a few years ago so it was really cool to wander around and explore while drinking glasses of delicious Raspberry Tart beer.  This stop was a little out of our way but oh so worth it!

A few pics from the grounds at New Glarus Brewing including the coolest rinsing station ever created!
Now we are back at home and it's time to get back to our normal lives... whatever that really means.  Oh, and I guess I should probably get to work making some jewelry!  I look forward to sharing some creations made with my new goodies in the very near future!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Art Bead Scene: June 2016

This month's Art Bead Scene inspiration is a lovely magazine cover from 1896.  You can read a bit more about the artwork and the artist on the ABS blog HERE.  I love the mix of colors at play here!
"Literary Poster for the Century Magazine", 1896
by John Louis Rhead
I have often complained about my lack of yellow in my art bead stash... so I was worried that I wouldn't be able to find anything suitable to join in this challenge.  (You may not know this, but it is a very rare thing for me to actually shop for this or other challenges... I'm pretty determined to make use of what I already own.)  Luckily, I came across these cute floral porcelain charms from Round Rabbit that were just the thing I needed!  They have a great mix of tangerine and teal that was perfect for the color palette.   

Not quite in the right color combo, I went ahead and whipped up a second, similar pair in teal and purple to clear out a section in my art bead storage cabinet.  I love the vintage feel of both pairs of charms... an effect heightened by the use of the brass components.

Thanks for stopping by!  I hope you all have a great week!  I'll be busy planning (and checking my bank balance!) for my first trip to Bead & Button this weekend.  I'm sure that I'll find plenty of new beads to fill the gaps in my art bead stash.  I'll keep you posted!  

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

June 2016 Inspiration for the Honey Do List

Happy June, everyone!!  It's time to announce this month's Honey Do List Challenge!  I hope that you all had a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend and are ready for summer to really get started.   

This 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... we're calling it the Honey Do List.  I know that I'm not the only one who loves a good design challenge, so I'm inviting folks to play along!  

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

I wanted to use a shot from our recent trip to Oregon for this month's challenge.  I took this picture at the Japanese Gardens in Portland, where I noticed the reflection of the ferns on the top of the rippling reflecting pool.  I waited several minutes, dodging small children, until a koi happened by--making the shot even more interesting.  Take inspiration from the color palette, the fish, the ferns, the water, the clouds--whatever strikes your fancy!  

For me this is the point in the year that it always feels like someone pushes the fast forward button... in a blink of an eye it will be fall.  I want to do all I can to combat that feeling this year... to be in the moment as much as possible and enjoy the long summer days.  I love that this picture transports me back to the tranquil Portland Japanese Garden.  I could have stood there watching the koi swim for hours!  My gears are already turning...  

The reveal date will be Monday, June 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 on June 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!