Friday, August 13, 2010
Sunday, June 20, 2010
I've been doing a whole lot less stringing over the last year or so, mostly because I've been having fun with wire and metal clay, among other things. But I've had to put my beading cap back on and come up with some designs that put less strain on my wrist as it seems, after almost five months, that I'm still dealing with some pain and discomfort. For a while I couldn't even make a simple wrapped loop on an earring. That isn't the case any longer, but working with anything thicker than 18 gauge (dead soft) wire has me reaching for the Ibuprofen before bedtime. I feel a little improvement now and again, when I realize I can do something I couldn't do even a couple weeks ago without pain, but it's been very slow. I have every confidence that I'll get to the other side of this, but while I'm waiting I have to think about the few shows I have coming up. So .. I rummaged through my collection of materials this week and found a whole box of Czech glass seed beads!
There are any number of secreted, forgotten surprises down in my studio .. boxes, bags and baskets full of stuff stashed away for later use. You know how it is .. if it isn't out where you can see it, you tend to forget it's there. Most of the seed beads I have are 6/0 size .. a bit larger than what I wanted for a multi-strand necklace that began materializing in my head. I needed something that would allow three or four strands to fit nicely into the sterling Bali cones I also found while rummaging. These matte black beads were perfect for the job! (There are some other colors I found to play around with as well .. this one just worked with the color scheme I needed at the moment).
The little pale green beads are chrysophrase, a real pretty stone that often looks like it's illuminated from within. They're interspersed with 4mm sterling silver round beads.
The cones that capture the strands at the clasp are absolutely gorgeous examples of granulation. These were hand made (not cast) by artisans in Indonesia .. each one of those little dots is applied one at a time. You should be able to click on any of this photos and see the piece close up.
The toggle clasp is also an Indonesian hand made component. You can usually tell the difference between truly hand made Bali components and those that are more cheaply cast by the way they look upon closer examination. "Bali Style" components which are cast look sort of like they were partially melted in the sun. Because the silver is poured into a mold instead of created from scratch, the individual design features lack the sharp detail of individually placed design segments - they run into each other instead.
The pendant is turquoise and is hinged in the center .. it's also removable, so you can wear the strands without the pendant, if you choose. The first thing I thought of when I put all the colors together was a panther .. you know, black as night .. with green eyes? But I couldn't name it "Black Panther" without thinking about the 60's and the negative connotations .. so I called it "Jungle Cat" instead.
It's currently in a beautiful Arts & Crafts oak display case at Mare's Wares Pottery on Route 37 in Morristown .. the site of an upcoming show on July 1st. Look for more information about the show at either www.artisansoftherivervalley.com or on Facebook at "Mare's Wares Arts Fest". If you're in the area, stop over .. it's going to be an incredible day!
Monday, March 29, 2010
However, after cleaning up portions of my studio - which could be done without hurting myself and was sorely needed - it was tough not to develop a whole bunch of ideas while putting away wire and pearls and stones and findings and stuff. It was an idea from an artisan friend though that finally had me thinking about what I might pull together, despite my (hopefully) temporary incapacity.
The idea was a donation .. she and I and several other friends are part of an artisan group covering three local counties (check out the link to the Adirondack Artisans Guild over on the right). My friend's daughter is coordinating a fund raiser at the school where she works in California and suggested that our group might open ourselves up to a whole new market if we were to donate as a group. I'd totally forgotten about it until the last minute, so didn't have a whole lot of time .. plus I couldn't pull together the sort of wrist wrenching wire work I would have liked to have created for what I saw as an opportunity to advertise along with my tax deductible contribution. I always think of California as ahead of the curve in style and accessories .. I wanted something a bit different and eye-catching.
So .. I pulled out one of my funky fine silver toggle clasps .. this one is about 8 grams of pure silver and is textured on both sides, as you can see from the photos here (one side is a sort of checkerboard, the other is a wavy pattern). I might have normally fused some smaller fine silver rings to both ends and attached something with stones and silver beads and more fine silver connectors. But I thought that stringing a bracelet would be less stress on my wrist, which turned out to be the case. The clasp is about an inch across though .. a single strand, unless relatively large beads were used, would be overwhelmed by the large clasp.
I spent an entire day working out the design, color scheme and additional beads to be used before I finally began to assemble it. It was seasonably warm and sunny last week when I put it all together .. mid 40's, which is seasonable for this time of year in northern New York! I had initially chosen some peacock blue pearls .. they looked fabulous with the silver accents, but it was so dark. So I went rummaging through my pearl drawers and found these pretty, bright, and very Spring-like Celadon-colored fresh water pearls. And as it happened, I had some similarly colored 6/0 Czech glass beads to fill in the strands. I originally tried to use them to make the bead loops attaching the ring portion of the clasp to the strand, but they turned out to be just a tad too big. It was difficult to get the bar part of the toggle to fit through the hole when the 6/0 beads were taking up so much space inside. Fortunately, I found some smaller seed beads that fit the bill .. both in size and color. The rest of the strand is comprised of little three-sided Thai silver beads, some tiny little fine silver nuggets I made, and some very cool "gear" shaped beads made of silver-coated ceramic.
I have to tell you, it's been a LONG time since I've used crimp beads in a piece. I spent a good half hour looking for both crimp beads and the special tool one needs to attach them to a strand. All of my strung pieces use either beads tips or French wire to attach a beaded strand to a clasp .. but I couldn't figure out a way to attractively do it. The problem with crimp beads is that if you crimp a little too enthusiastically, you'll destroy and weaken the integrity of the wire inside the crimp bead; if you don't crimp firmly enough, the wire will ultimately work its way out of the crimp bead and all your beads will slide off and disappear.
I was delighted both by my ability to still be able to crimp properly AND with the design and look of the bracelet when it was done! It's very bright and Springy .. I called it Spring Fling. Hey, I was on the clock .. it was the first thing that popped into my head. It'll do : )
The event is scheduled for May 1 and is called Moroccan Nights: An Evening in Casablanca .. and doesn't THAT just conjure up a whole bunch of wonderful images in your mind .. dark, smoky jazz clubs, slinky gowns and swept up do's, mysterious strangers ... Bogey?!?! The paperwork suggested that ALL items will be put online for bidding unless the donor requests otherwise .. and why would anyone request otherwise?? The school is www.vistamarschool.org .. and I'm assuming there'll be a link somewhere on their site to the silent auction items once they have them all in their possession. I'll certainly keep you posted! : )
Monday, March 1, 2010
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Beads similar to this can be traced to ancient Rome, Phoenicia and Alexandria. Archaeological sites in Ireland uncovered canes dating to the 8th century that were probably made in Venice. Prior to the 15th century, glass makers were only producing beads from Rosetta canes. Like Chevrons, Rosetta beads were made by adding a number of layers of colored glass in a mold and then pulling it from either end into a long cane. The cane was then cut into short segments.
Large scale Millefiori bead production began in the late 1800's. Beads were made by hand, one by one, built on a center glass core with solid color. Thin slices of colorful Rosetta cane were then pressed into the surface of the wound glass while still hot. Millefiori became one of the most commonly traded and popular beads. My friend's bead looked to be of a similar type .. singularly handmade. The glass core is black; and you can see two entirely different Millefiori slices were pressed onto the core. Here's a link to some similar examples: Millefiori trade beads
Things were pretty crazy between June and November last year; but I think an idea began percolating almost immediately. Since the bead was so large, the piece had to be on an equal scale. But I didn't want it to be big and bulky, since the few things of mine Mary Ann owns are rather delicate. However, after discovering her wrist size was a nice average 6.5", I felt she could carry off what I had in mind.
What I ended up doing was making it entirely out of fine silver links .. in a gauge heavy enough to allow for some attractive hammering and forging without the weight. The five links attached to the hook mimic the design splotches on the bead, and the mother of pearl and blue sponge coral beads pick up a couple of the dominant colors. Despite the heft of the trade bead, the bracelet is very light weight.
The larger of the links contains wrapped 2.5mm mother of pearl beads on fine silver wire.
I've already given Mary Ann the bracelet or I would have taken another shot of this link .. there's actually a front and a back to the bead, and this, much to my dismay, is the back. The wire extending up to the bead isn't as prominent in the front. It still looks good, but I'm sorry I didn't notice that when I was taking the photos.
As I've mentioned in previous posts about pieces containing fine silver, one can "harden" fine silver by giving it a good going over with a hammer. This changes the composition of the metal's crystals in such a way that a very malleable piece of wire becomes very rigid. It would be difficult to bend several of these links without a bit of effort. Because fine silver IS so soft, however, it's easy after flattening and hardening a link to add a little surface design interest with whatever might be at hand .. in this case, the smaller ends of several different types of hammers in my arsenal. It's a funky piece, to be sure; and I like it enough to maybe try a similar design with a slightly different focal bead. I have a whole lot of them from which to choose, so we'll see what kind of interesting pieces I can get out of this idea. This particular piece I called Manic Millefiori.
Might be time to purchase some more fine silver wire!