Thursday, July 30, 2009

Knotty .. in a good way

A new customer, recommended to me by Mary Ann Evans (of Mare's Wares Pottery), brought me a tender little knotted necklace while I was at Mare's July 1st Arts Fest and asked if I could put it back together again. Despite having had it in my possession since July 1, I only just recently completed it because I had trouble finding red cord of the right diameter, the color which had originally been used to knot between the beads.

The biggest surprise, however, was when I cut the necklace apart to begin knotting .. I initially thought the beads were red (garnet, was what I was thinking at the time), but it was the little red knots between the beads that caused that optical illusion. When the beads were all cut apart and sitting in a little ceramic dish, devoid of red cord, I discovered that they were carnelian .. a very pretty deep orange and not red at all! And to complete the weird optical illusion aspect of this venture, the silk cord I finally found that fit size-wise was burgandy .. though when next to the carnelian beads looked very much like a deep brick color, and matched the shade of the beads exactly! The brain is a wonderful thang!

The problem I encountered with the burgandy thread, however, was that there was no longer a marked contrast between the beads and the knots between the beads .. I knotted about 20 of them with the burgandy silk and, while very pretty, decided I'd better call the customer and ask if the contrast was important .. and explain what the new configuration looked like. Turned out she was fine with the lack of contrast (I would have had to order another spool of thread, too .. though I was happy to do it) and suggested I carry on. If you click on the photo, you should be able to tell the beads are carnelian. From a distance, they still look red though .. don't they?!?!

After this little exercise, I found myself in a knotting frame of mind and looked through my bead drawers to see what else I might put together in the same vein. I had several little baggies of rectangular pendants I had purchased from Silk Road Treasures at a show five or six years ago .. one little baggie with pale green jade, one with dark green jade and one with lapis. I pulled out the pale green pendants and found about ten or twelve different stones that would provide some nice contrast and completed the tin cup design shown here .. which I call Mountain Ash.

It's a nice mix - there's Mexican opal, green garnet, hessonite garnet, yellow turquoise, orange aventurine, jade, carnelian and pale yellow quartz (plus some Czech glass and #10 seed beads). At about 21", its one of the first long ones I've made in a bit. I added a very simple gold-filled hook and eye clasp .. it's very light weight. It was the colors I saw in our own three mountain ash trees that stand between the house and the river - and can be seen from my studio window - that gave me the idea for the name.

After that I was on a roll and just kept rummaging. I've got a couple drawers full of turquoise, but haven't done anything with any of it in a long while, so found some pretty faceted rondelles with small enough drill holes to allow for knotting and put together this really nice piece! I used turquoise-colored cord, so it blends in quite well; and the knots between the beads allow for a really nice flexibility in the strand. The clasp is handmade in Bali and is a design I sought out for what seemed like months after purchasing a necklace for myself with this same clasp from a little boutique in Albany. Was so delighted when I finally found them, I purchased five or six at the time .. there are only two left. I've tended to use them sparingly; but this piece seemed to call for it. I don't have a name for this one ... any ideas???

The green design came about after I ordered and received a strand of Labradorite marquis cut oval beads, one of which plays center stage here. I tried multiple times to get a close up of the pendant with its hidden opalescence .. but it just stayed hidden. All I could get was the reflection from one of my lights. Labradorite is a type of feldspar .. moonstone is in the same category - they both remind me of opal with their little internal rainbows brought out when the light hits them in the right way or in the right spot. There were several of the pendants on the strand that were rich with these surprising little bursts of color .. all the more likely with so much visible surface on such a large bead.

The strand, on the other hand, is not Labradorite but tourmalated quartz .. both the strand and the pendant have some naturally occuring bits of black in them, so I used black silk to knot; and I couldn't have been happier with the result! It's at once both simple and stunning - I gave it a spare and simple sterling toggle clasp .. I didn't want to take away from the strand in anyway. I call it Green Lagoon because the particular shades of green made me think of a sandy, warm and tropical place.

I'm now working on some variations of the Mountain Ash piece (I might pull out the darker jade and use a couple of those and/or assemble a whole 'nuther collection of stones and work with the lapis pendants) .. and I've pulled a bunch of little baggies full of possible strand and pendant mixes for some more knotted combos after that. AND (I forgot to mention this) since the catalyst for this knotty run - the carnelian and citrine necklace at the top - was completed using French wire, I've finished all of these using French wire instead of bead tips to attach the clasps to the body of the necklace. When done correctly, French wire (a tiny, itsy bitsy little wound wire tube) creates a little loop through the clasp and protects the cord from abrasion. It also looks very neat and tidy and is often used on high-end pearls. I haven't used French wire in a long time .. it's always good to refresh one's skills occasionally, no?

I expect there'll be a whole area of knotted pieces by the time the Stone Mills show in LaFargeville (August 7, 8 and 9) rolls around. I had a request for pearl bracelets at my last show though .. so gotta balance my time. There's so little of it, you know : )

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Whirlwind production!

In an attempt to pump up inventory for a couple of upcoming shows (one small, but last year very good, local show is here in Ogdensburg on Sunday, the 19th at the big golden dome - 10:00 to 4:00 .. stop by!!), I've been tossing my pearl and stone storage and reverting to some old tried and true designs, a few beaded things and some pieces involving chain. I did manage to come up with one more bangle .. a medium weight version. I sold two high end bangles at Mare's Wares Arts Fest on July 1 and had hoped to get two or three made for the next venue. But, it's the designing of the things and not the actual creation of them that takes time - hence my reverting to some quicker things in the short run. This bangle is sort of a cross between the colorful warmth of Sun Drenched and the design aspects of Blue Bayou .. and it contains some of my favorite things: a couple of ancient trade beads, several handmade lampwork beads, three fine silver discs that I made and more twisted wire. I call it Honey Dripper.

This is a fine gauge Byzantine necklace .. it's a little over 18" long and took me forever to finish! Not because it was particularly difficult, but because I kept putting it down to work on other things. And when you're working with smaller rings, it just necessarily takes longer to get any length outta the things. I began this while I was doing a trunk show at Captain Spicer's Gallery in Clayton on June 27. I never used to bring projects to work on during shows, but the process of assembling a Byzantine chain is very impressive .. and it gives me something to do while folks are browsing. I brought it to Mare's on July 1st, when I'd hoped to finish it .. but only completed it this week on my dining room table. I'm thinking of bringing more of the same size rings to the golden dome with me on Sunday and making a pair of earrings. I had a bracelet that went with it, but it sold at Mare's. Not a bad thing .. just have to make another!!

I wore the necklace around for several days after completing it .. it's got a wonderful heft and felt marvelous around my neck! Even after all the time it took to make the thing, I'm now thinking I've gotta make one for me to keep. I mean what's the point of having the materials and knowing how to do it if you can't make one for yourself!! In the photo to the left, it almost looks as though I had patinated it (the best I could do in Photoshop .. it was either make it blindingly bright, or turn up the contrast. And it's the contrast that makes it look patinated). The photo above is more indicative of the look of it .. I tumbled it when I was done, so it's nice and shiny. If you wear it alot, it'll stay that way .. otherwise, it'll slowly patinate itself over time (called tarnish, for those of you less romantic types). And if you're big on sulfur type foods (onions, garlic, eggs) .. it'll patinate itself even quicker!

After finishing up the Byzantine necklace and hunting around for some interesting stones, I found some beautiful briolette and pear shaped stones I'd purchased four, five .. maybe six years ago .. and had forgotten about. These came strung on 8" instead of the customary 16" strands .. really pretty things I kept separate from my other beads because of their cost. I have one of those tall plastic units with a bunch of little drawers that you often see in garages full of nuts and bolts .. well, mine is full of beads, and several of the drawers have rubies, emeralds, sapphires, lapis, vesuvianite and other precious and semi-precious delights hidden within.

These two chain and stone necklaces use vesuvianite .. a really pretty olivine green stone that looks a lot like peridot. I have so many of these pretty little shapes in various stones, I think I may do a little production line after the show on Sunday and make a bunch of them. All those I did over the past couple of days use 14k gold filled chain .. mostly because the stone colors I was using looked best against gold. But I have some briolettes in my larger unit of bead drawers that will look better with sterling: rose quartz, apatite, kyanite, citrine, and onyx.

While this photo may look like a single necklace, it's actually one necklace with five stones and one with a single stone. I've been trying to make matching earrings as I finish up with a necklace .. because people always ask! And it's easier while all the materials are already out. Despite this recent propensity, I'm in serious need of a couple days of nothing but earring production! Especially a couple of the more popular wire wrapped seed pod earrings that sell as fast as I make them .. I could use one of those little time turner devices Hermonine used in HP and The Prisoner of Azkaban!!

Here are a couple more stone and chain necklaces .. I did another of the five stone versions in a smoky topaz (absolutely gorgeous stones, purchased by carat weight!!). I was almost tempted to put them on 14k chain instead of 14k gold filled, but it's already a $135 necklace with just the gold filled chain. And I'm saving the 14k chain for some 3mm faceted tanzanite stones I've had stashed.

The blue stone is lapis .. the strand from which it came was graduated, so I've got several different sizes. Made a couple pair of earrings, and am thinking of doing another necklace. I was going to do this one on sterling, but the lapis has some really pretty gold veining in it .. so there's was no question of suspending it on gold. If you click on the photo, you can see them all up close.

While rummaging through my pearl drawers last week I found several varieties of smaller pearls and brought back a design I'd made six or seven years ago .. a double strand of pearls with a removable pendant. The original pendant was an incredible olive pear drop pearl. But that strand is long gone; so I made a variety of them using stones instead. The three across the top are a pale green kyanite, a gorgeous shade of blue apatite and a golden carnelian. That beautiful large blue stone at the bottom is an aquamarine. I've got eight or nine more of those and use them sparingly .. they come from a fabulous strand I got at a wholesale gem and lapidary show in western MA five or six years ago. When they're gone, I'd be surprised if I find another strand anything like it.

The kyanite is strung on white round pearls, the apatite and aquamarine on a pretty shade of beige rice pearls and the carnelian is on chocolate rice pearls. I quickly sold the five or six versions of the original necklace with the pearl pendant and wouldn't be surprised if these do well .. the removable pendant is appealing because sometimes all you want are simple pearls, or a simple pendant. And the pendants are attached to an incredible handcrafted Bali ring (Nina Designs .. wholesale only, but stunning stuff!) that looks great suspended from a sterling chain. It's all about choices, folks ..

With all the successful rehashing I've accomplished lately, I may need to dig out my old jewelry photos and see if there are any other pieces I can update. When you're low in inventory, you do what works, yes? I may have to save the time-consuming new designs for another time (i.e. when there's more of it ... time, I mean) .. but then, everything seems new to most people stopping by my booth lately. Most of my old photos are pre-light box .. back when I used to flat bed scan them, just to have a record of the things I'd created. And most of those designs were long gone before we re-located to the North Country. So ... everything old is new again!! Happens occasionally. Thankfully.