Festival Lights – Andrew Thornton Challenge

September 16, 2014

Every so often, jewelry artist Andrew Thornton organizes a beading challenge. He chooses a theme and makes up 20 kits. This month’s theme is Festival Lights, and I snagged one of the kits. Each kit consists of a small bag of the “luxury bead blend”, along with a small bag of coordinating beads and some other goodies that vary from month to month. Also included is a mystery component.

This is what we got for this month:



The top picture is the selection of beads and other goodies, and the bottom picture is the luxury bead blend.

This month I was captivated by the bead blend, so I decided to do some freeform beadweaving. I used peyote stitch and played with making random increases as I went along. I’m not sure you can see it in the picture, but the increases added quite a bit of texture to the piece. I used Andrew’s ceramic disk (that was the mystery component) at one side, and balanced it with a couple simple dangles on the other side. Then I attached the entire piece to some chain to finish the necklace.
Festival Lights copy

Here’s my piece. The increases also caused a bit of ruffling. Next time I think I’ll add more increases, to make it really ripple.

See the jewelry made by the other participants by checking out Andrew’s page here: http://andrew-thornton.blogspot.com/2014/09/festival-lights-challenge-reveal.html

JAC Blog Hop – The Design Process

June 24, 2014

Each month some of the artists from the Jewelry Artisans Community blog on the same topic. This month is about our design process.

I had to really think about this one, because I don’t consider that I have a “process”, but then I realized it is the same thing when people don’t think of themselves as “artists”. So I set about thinking through what I do when I make a piece of jewelry – that is my process, isn’t it?

Most of the time I have either a focal bead or a strand of unusual beads that I want to make something out of. With me it is usually a necklace, and it is almost always a multi-strand piece. The first thing I do is decide how many strands the necklace will be. I always choose an odd number, and most frequently, I make it five strands.

Next comes the selection phase. I go through my trays of Czech glass beads and boxes of seed beads, pulling out anything that I think might go with my chosen focus beads, and pile them up on my worktable. This is the fun part. It gives me another chance to play with my stash. At this point I will also decide which metal best goes with the piece, and get out my metal beads, findings, etc.

Now comes the hard part. I’ve got all this bling laid out in front of me, but I can’t use it all in one piece. Most things will work with the focus beads, but not necessarily with each other, and anyway, the piece would be too busy with all this variety. I have to edit the selection. This is the hardest, but also the most critical part of my process. It can take days. I’ve even been known to stop a piece in the middle and go shopping because it wasn’t working.

Over the years I have developed a trick or two to help me with the editing process. A multi-strand piece requires careful balancing among the strands so that it hangs correctly, so what I do is select a largish bead for each strand, and then two to three coordinating beads to go with it. Sometimes I repeat a group of beads on a second strand, depending on the beads and what I’m doing. This helps me narrow my focus so I’m not overwhelmed with so many choices at once.

Once the bead selection is done, stringing the piece is almost anticlimactic. I do have to pay attention to balancing and placement. I do this by stringing a few inches of each strand at a time, and then holding the necklace up on my neck to see how it is lying. (Bead stoppers are essential for this step.) Sometimes I have to unstring a section because it doesn’t look right with the other strands. Rarely do I have to change bead selections, but occasionally I have done so. Sometimes it is just a matter of switching a bead to another strand, but sometimes a bead that made it through the editing process turns out to have been a wrong move, and I have to go back through my stash – or go shopping.

I have taken up metalsmithing and follow a different process for designing pieces in metal, but I haven’t done enough to talk about it yet. Another time!

See what other members of the JAC have to say about the design process here:







Caroline – The Crafty Chimp


JAC Blog Hop: Metal Mania

April 28, 2014

Each month some of the members of the Jewelry Artisans Community blog on the same topic.  This month the topic is our favorite metal (or bead, for non-metalworkers).  I work with both metal and beads, but I’ll stick with metal this time around.

To my mind, there are two kinds of metal: precious and base.  Precious metals include gold, silver, and platinum.  Base metals include copper, iron and nickel.  In practice, many of us call any metal that isn’t precious, base metal.

Of the precious metals, I have only used silver.  I’ve worked with both fine silver (99% pure) and sterling silver (92.5% silver), and I like them both.  Each has its particular useful attributes.  Sterling silver has to be soldered together, whereas fine silver can be fused to itself with no solder needed.  Of course, one need not apply heat at all; in wire form you can make all kinds of fanciful shapes with hand tools alone.

For years I only worked in silver, and turned my nose up at the base metals.  However, when silver prices skyrocketed, I was associated with a bricks-and-mortar bead store, and our customers needed solutions that were not as expensive, and the store manager asked us to start making samples in other metals.  The metals generally available at bead stores and shows are copper, gunmetal and brass.  I am not an expert in these matters and I suspect some of the metals are coated something else, but don’t ask me what – I don’t know.  As I started working with these base metals, they started to grow on me.  Which one I work with is dictated by the colors of the beads I’m using.  In looking over my work, I see that quite a bit of it is made up with gunmetal, probably because the blues I like to work with go best with it.  To my surprise, though, my favorite pieces are not the gunmetal ones.  Check out these pictures:


brass necklace 2
These  necklaces are the same design.  The top one is made up in silver, with onyx beads, and the lower one is made with brass chain and coated wire, and kyanite beads.  The silver one sold for three times what the brass one did, incidentally, due to the cost of the materials.

Despite my earlier silver snobbery, I actually like the brass and kyanite one better!

See what other members of the JAC have to say here:


JAC Blog Hop – Inspiration Strikes

March 25, 2014

Each month some of the artists of the Jewelry Artisans Community participate in a blog hop. This month’s topic is about where we find our inspiration.

Many of my creative friends are inspired by specific things, such as nature, culture or a type of art. I find it hard to translate such abstract themes into jewelry. What drew me into the jewelry arts initially was the gorgeous glass, and that’s where I usually start, with the beads.

Take this sea glass. This is real sea glass, found on a beach in North Carolina. Isn’t it fabulous? I’m pretty sure I will wire wrap it into a pendant. I want to make it into a memory of the trip to the beach, so when I found these sand-colored lampworked beads, I was thrilled. Together, these will form the basis of the necklace.

sea glass

Sometimes what takes my fancy is a bead that is really different from anything I’ve seen before. On occasion it isn’t even a bead that gets my juices flowing. In the picture below, I’ve collected a group of things I might use in the final piece, but what started the project was the brass bells.

brass bells

Once I find an item that sparks an idea, I spend an inordinate amount of time looking for the supporting cast of beads to go with it. I like to have an excess of beads from which I can pull a selection. That’s when the agony starts. What to put in, what to leave out. So painful. The actual construction of the necklace is almost anticlimactic. Still fun, though.

See what other members of the JAC have to say here:


Radiant Orchid Challenge

February 27, 2014

I was lucky enough to snag one of Andrew Thornton’s challenge kits – he only makes 20 each time. This one was inspired by the Pantone color of the year, radiant orchid. Andrew refers to his kits as luxury bead blends, and there certainly was a lovely lot of beads in the kit. The rules allow you to pick and choose what you want to use out of the kit. If you want to know what was included in the kit, you can see it here: http://andrew-thornton.blogspot.com/2014/01/radiant-orchid-challenge.html

I wanted to use some of the seed beads but didn’t want to string them, so I whipped up a couple of beaded beads to add to my piece. As a surprise, Andrew included a pair of lilac enameled beads, which not only did I use, but I fired up my torch and made a couple of enameled beads in a greenish-yellow color to toss into the mix. As long as I had the torch going, I made a few enameled leaves too, but only ended up using one.

I enjoyed the challenge, and as it turns out, my cat Loki really likes enameled beads. Thanks for your help, Loki.

Below is a picture of my necklace.

Blog picture

You can see the creations of the other participants by visiting their pages here:





Love Actually – Jewelry Artisans Community Blog Hop

February 25, 2014

Each month some of the artisans of the Jewelry Artisans Community blog on the same topic. This month, we are talking about love.

The JAC hosts a monthly challenge, and this month’s challenge was to make a piece of Valentine’s Day jewelry that did not include the traditional red and pink colors. I thought I’d take a tip from that, and talk about the love of one’s friends, instead of what we usually think of for Valentine’s Day.

A number of years ago, I met a woman on a work assignment. She worked for my company but I’d not met her until I arrived at the client site. We hit it off immediately, found we had a mutual interest in crafts, and became craft fair buddies. I got her interested in beading and we went to Beadfest together. It was great.

I call her DB because at the firm we worked at, everyone was referred to by their initials. A few years ago, she told me that she was moving to Phoenix. I was so sad. We met for Beadfest the following year, and then the relationship dwindled into exchanging Christmas cards.

Then last fall I decided I would go to Tuscon for the bead shows. I called her to see if she was interested. I later realized it had been 8 years since she moved, and probably 7 since I’d seen her, but it didn’t seem like that long at all. What really hit me between the eyes, though, is that she told me that she had been seriously ill last year – and I never knew.

It is so easy to take it for granted that your friends will always be there when you want them.

We had a great time in Tucson, and have resolved that it will not be another seven years before we get together again.

Since this is a jewelry blog, I have to put in a picture of some jewelry. This piece is very simple, but I will treasure it as a reminder of my friend. We each made one at a make-and-take project at one of the booths at the Best Bead Show.

DB pendant

See what everyone else has to say here:




Jewelry Artisans Community Earring Challenge

October 28, 2013

I participate in a forum for jewelry-makers known as the Jewelry Artisans Community. The group runs challenges at least monthly, in an effort to stretch our designing muscles. Every so often we’ll host a special challenge, like this Earring Challenge sponsored by forum member Nicole from NValentine Studios.

Nicole donated a pair of her artisan beads to each participant in the challenge; each of us had to make a pair of earrings. There was much good-natured teasing in our challenge thread, as some of us took a bit longer than others to produce our earrings.

Lotty64 (Caroline) was the first to post. These are her earrings:

Here is Michelle’s pair:

And Gayle’s:

Cat made this pair:

Zili’s pair:

These are Nicker’s earrings:

Dawn’s effort:

And these are mine:
Nicole earrings

Aren’t they gorgeous? You’ll notice they are all different. Our community is full of talented artisans of all sorts: wire artists, lampworkers (like Nicole), beadweavers, wire workers and more.

If you want to see the tomfoolery that accompanied this challenge, here is a link to the forum thread:


I started you off at page 9, because that’s when the teasing really got started.

We invite you to check out our forum at http://jewelryartisans.proboards.com/index.cgi. We’d love to have you join us!


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