Sunday, October 26, 2014

Beads: Decorative, Exotic, Whimsical

I'm not talking about the little plastic beads your grandma used to string together. Nope. Not trying to work with those. I'm talking beads made of glass, wood, metal, shells. And if made by hand they can be really special--an expression of personality, culture, mood, feelings. Take the Tibetan beads for dreadlocks below. And the brass beads made in Ghana.

Tibetan beads
Tibetan Silver Dreadlock Beads on Etsy

brass beads
Brass Beads From Ghana

Following is a snippet from my ongoing adventure in handmade bead land. After much reading of books and online material and practice cutting, shaping, and soldering, I decided to tackle my very first tube bead. Why a tube bead? I like their odd shapes, and the large surface allows for all sorts of doodads and decorations. 

So I headed out to my studio, sat at the bench and setup to saw a 3/4 inch section off the long piece of silver tubing that you see on the upper right of the photo below. Then I placed the tube section in a miter jig--the big vise thingy on the left (photo is a little blurry, sorry). That got the tube section all ready to file the end perfectly straight. Don't want any lopsided beads, you know. Then I flipped the tube over and filed the other side.

Next...ok, so there were lots of steps between these two photos but I gotta leave some mystery, right? Below you can see where I've soldered a little cap on the bottom end of the tube section and I'm about to solder the cap on the top. The little hole in the top cap--there's also one on the bottom cap--was made with a drill and that is where I'll later thread a piece of wire so I can string the bead. The spiral ring surrounding the bead was added purely for decoration. It's lose now but will be soldered on later. 

Then voila! My lovely bead all soldered and cleaned up and looking shiny.  It's sleek and simple but different. And big enough to be a focal bead in a necklace or bracelet. Nothing old-fashioned about it. This is only the beginning of my bead land adventure. I've got so many ideas for decorative beads simmering in my head that I'll never find enough time to make them.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Loop-in-Loop Chain Jewelry--Prized Through the Ages

If you've been following me on Facebook and Instagram you've probably figured out that I'm kind of hooked on all things chain, and making chain jewelry with links. I find the process relaxing and the results fulfilling.

I started by attempting a simple loop-in-loop chain. It took a lot of reading and researching, some trial and error, and a healthy dose of patience. You have to make each loop (more than 20 in this chain bracelet), shape it and then string them together. All by  hand. I also make the sterling silver clasps by hand. But I've learned to make some very cool looking chain bracelets. Here's one.

Single loop-in-loop chain bracelet, fine silver

I liked the look and feel of these bracelets so much that I decided to try earrings. I thought it would be a way to offer this beautiful chain design at a lower price range. The first pair of earrings, made with purple glass beads, were snatched off my Etsy shop within 24 hours. They look fabulous when worn--all shiny and dangly. I even made a few more pairs with different beads, including a pair for myself.

Loop-in-loop chain earrings with purple glass beads, fine silver

Loop-in-loop chain earrings in the works, ear wires to come.

Next, I moved to a slightly more complex link pattern called the pinched loop or sailor's chain. This one takes more time (and patience!) but I liked the tightly weaved look so much that I decided to make a chain bracelet. I tried some variations for beads to add on and finally settled on pearl and turquoise beads 'cause I like blending something classy (pearls) with something a little more funky and fun (turquoise). 

Pinched loop chain bracelet in the works, with fine silver and beads

This one took a while to make, link by link and bead by bead. But it was worth it. I love how the bracelet came together.

Pinched loop chain bracelet, with fine silver and turquoise and pearl beads

Loop-in-loop chains have been around forever. They date from the bronze age and have been found in ancient Egyptian graves. And they were greatly favored by royalty through the ages. It's easy to see why. They are stunning, unique and complex, and the possibilities for design and use with them are endless.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Jewelry Lasts Forever

Roman jewelry from 61 A.D., uncovered from a site being excavated beneath a department store 50 miles outside of London. Amazing how long it has lasted. The gold jewelry looks like it just needs to be brushed off and polished. The silver will need more work but seems intact. One thing is for sure, the shoes, bags and clothing that we spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on would never have held up this well, if at all.

Roman jewelry

Friday, September 12, 2014

Natural Stone Collection

Part of my collection of natural stones. Lapis lazuli: prized since ancient times for its deep blue color. Opal: fiery, delicate, precious. Turquoise: ever beautiful and immensely popular. Plus labradorite, petrified wood, azurite and more. Colorful and vibrant cabochons waiting to be set into pendants, rings, and earrings. If only there were more hours in a day!

natural stone cabochons