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Jewelry Inspired: What Summer Means to Me.

Artbeads offered us bloggers a chance to try out some supplies* & design a summer theme. My first instinct is to gravitate toward blues, yellows, pinks, white: bright colours & pastels. Then I stopped myself. That is my assumption of summertime jewelry. But what does summer mean to me?

I grew up in Nova Scotia, so the ocean was never far away. But I grew up in the Annapolis Valley – so the ocean was not the prominent landscape. Now that I live in Québec, I live near a lake. So there is indeed water, but like the muddy banks of the Bay of Fundy, it is not the crystal clear blue/green water you will see in the Caribbean. It has more of an earthy quality.

Thinking of where I spend most of my time in the summer months, I like to be outside in my garden: either working with the dirt or relaxing in the shade when it’s too hot. I like to observe the plant life and insects as they exist in harmony with one another.

In the summer, you will see me in a lot of khakis, earth-toned capris & shorts: tank tops – very simple & casual. If I go out to an event, chances are you will see me in a simple black dress and black thong sandals. So it occurred to me – what summer means to me: spending time connecting with the earth & casual socializing.

After this contemplation, I decided to choose two pendants from Artbeads that I thought most represented me in the summer months.

This 18x25mm onyx pendant is hand painted with a butterfly by a Russian artist. Butterflies are very symbolic for me: they represent beauty in nature, as well as transformation – something I strive to do many times in my life. This pendant would be perfect in a casual outfit or little black dress.

As mentioned in my last post, I had a hard time choosing colours for this piece. I just have too many hues of yellow & orange in my vast stash of beads! I ended up going with just a splash of colour with these 4mm jade beads. Too much colour with the black onyx and it would look too halloween-ish or bumble bee-ish! Plus I wanted the beauty of the pendant to take center stage & not get lost in a sea of bright colour. So I used mostly onyx beads (6mm and 4mm), sterling silver chain & bead caps.

When I approached the design for the second pendant, I didn’t have to look far for the perfect matching component. Something about this stoneware pendant reminded me of a particular bead. Was it wood? No. It would have to be a stone, with many different colour layers. Then it hit me: Moukite!

Moukite (or mookaite, “mook jasper”) is a type of jasper found in Australia. I love this stone for it earthy colours & broad patterns – anywhere from reddish-brown, gold, white, or even mauve/pinks! It was the perfect compliment to this pendant, which is made of glazed stoneware clay.

The pendant easily accommodates the 10mm beads. I decided to break up the bulk of the beads & add interest with these 8mm sterling silver twisted rope jump rings, mainly because they reminded me of the pattern of the white flower in the pendant.

I thought I’d share a tip: I wanted the rings to lay flat on the neckline. In order to achieve this, I had to pay close attention to the pattern. I noticed that I had to twist the loop wraps around the single beads (the group of three beads have their loops facing the same direction). I had to make sure that the wrapped loops on the single beads were alternating: meaning, instead of them facing the same direction , I needed to have one facing outward. Here is a picture that hopefully will illustrate what I mean (sorry it’s a bad picture):

I held the loop to the left with my fingers, then gently twisted the loop on the right with my pliers 90 degrees. This variance in the loops means the rings laid flat against my neckline instead of sticking out uncomfortably.

*The Artbeads Blogging for Beaders program allows us bloggers the opportunity to try new products free of charge. My reviews are my honest opinion & I have not been paid for endorsing this product by artbeads.com.*

Clasp-o-phobia: Getting over my fears ~ a review of Bali Silver Clasps.

For December, Artbeads offered through their Blogging for Beaders program the opportunity for us to try products from their Bali Bead line. Upon reviewing my choices, I decided to try & review the clasps.

You see, I am self-diagnosed with clasp-o-phobia: the fear & doubt of the functionality of most clasps on the market. I have tried different clasps in the past, including barrel clasps, toggle clasps, “S”-clasps, hook & eye clasps, etc…but none really impressed me or gave me a sense of security. I am one who hates the frustration of doing up clasps on bracelets, and also the feeling of a clasp that may become undone during regular use.

So because of this, I have stuck to using two tried and true clasps: the lobster clasp and the magnetic clasp. Although the lobster clasp can be tricky to get latched at times, the security you get from knowing that it is not going to come undone makes it a winner in my books. It’s a clasp we are all familiar with, and can be used in adjustable bracelets and necklaces.

The magnetic clasp is a dream for us who hate to fiddle with clasping bracelets. The worst thing that has happened is it accidentally pinching my skin if it was too close to my wrist when the magnets come together. I also like to include a safety chain with magnetic clasps in case they become attracted to another metal object and possibly come undone.

So when Artbeads offered the opportunity to review items in their Bali line, I thought this was a good chance for me to overcome my clasp-o-phobia. Many of the Bali clasps are very ornate and add beauty to the piece. I also know from past experience with Bali products that they are sturdy & well made.

I asked Artbeads to send me a variety of “S”-clasps, toggle clasps as well as hook & eye clasps for me to try – 7 in total – and they were happy to do so free of charge.

As you can see I am a bit late with December blogging due to the holiday rush, but here are the finished pieces inspired by the Bali clasps…

The first clasps I wanted to try were the toggle clasps. I immediately noticed how ornate & well crafted they were: very sturdy – great for big stones that I love to work with! They also had chain already attached which I appreciated. In the past, the sterling silver toggles I have tried did not contain a chain, and for me to add one was trial and error – sometimes too long, sometimes too short. These totally took the guess work out of it!

Above: toggle clasp with wire loops paired with 16mm faceted quartz & 12mm reconstituted smoky quartz beads.

Above: square beaded toggle clasp paired with large aquamarine nugget beads.

The verdict: I *LOVE* these clasps…who knew the functional part of a bracelet could also be a focal point! Very easy to put on and pair well with large stones. You will probably find when buying a bracelet with a toggle clasp you will appreciate going up a size so to have room to maneuver the bar piece through the clasp. For example I usually make my bracelets 7.5 inches – the common ladies wrist size, but these are approx. 8 inches. I don’t think I could comfortably get them on if I made them the standard 7.5.

Next I tackled designs around the “S”-clasps. At first, I found these clasps very frustrating. Again very sturdily designed, and very beautiful…but since they are made out of such a strong gauge of wire I found them very hard to get clasped & undone. Some slight manipulation with the pliers to loosen the “S”  part slightly, and success! A beautiful clasp that was fairly easy to use. A good shake and it was clear that these were very well designed: I was not worried of it coming undone accidentally.

Above: “S’ Clasp with double wrapped and snaked wire paired with square faceted onyx beads and pewter bead caps.

Above: “S” Hook Clasp with granulation & wire work with faceted onyx coins & pewter bead caps.

Finally, I tried the hook & eye clasps. I want to comment separately on these since all three were so very different.

I was really excited with this Simple Hook & Eye Clasp. This large clasp works perfectly with larger stones, as seen above with 16mm red banded agate beads. Because of the size it is quite simple to use.

The Hook and Eye Clasp Set is the polar opposite of the previous clasp. Very petite and great when you want a clasp that is inconspicuous. It works beautifully with the bracelet above showcasing 6mm South Sea Shell Beads in Sterling Silver. I was happy to find this clasp very easy to use – definitely a good alternative to the lobster clasp and I will be keeping this one in mind for future adjustable pieces as well.

I decided to use the Triangular Hook & Eye Clasp last. I had a hard time deciding what to make with it, considering its design. I found it rather awkward to use. Although it was my favourite clasp esthetically, it was my least favourite in terms of usability. When I finally decided to make a three-strand sterling silver & onyx bracelet with it, I really had to bend the hook part out with my pliers in order to get the clasp undone & easily done up. Because of this I added a safety chain. But to be honest although it takes some practice to learn how to use this clasp, it wasn’t so bad in the end. And it looks fabulous!

These are just some of the clasps available in the Bali Bead Silver line on Artbeads.com. Thanks, Artbeads for allowing me to try out the clasps free of charge & allowing us beady bloggers a chance to independently review your products.

(In case you are wondering, Artbeads does not pay me to do this. They simply provide materials, & then I give my honest opinion. :))

Jewelry Inspired: Fun With Swarovski Filligree Flowers

The good people at Artbeads allowed me to pick out some Swarovski components to try out free of charge. I decided that one of the items I wanted to try were these Swarovski Filligree Flowers as I had not seen this type of component up close & personal before. When it arrived, it certainly lived up to the standards I have come to expect from Swarovski: solid design and the crystals sparkle beautifully.

At first I didn’t know what to do with it. The flower itself has a very vintage feel, so it is unlike my usual modern funky design. It has such an elegant yet bold factor on its own: paring it with stones and beads just made it feel very busy and over done. I realized that this component on it’s own would make a very nice piece: like a nice brooch or earrings…then it hit me. I immediately had to purchase more from Artbeads, because these would make the perfect hairpins!

I usually shy away from making this type of jewelry because there doesn’t seem to be any challenge design wise. Glue the component onto a hair pin. Okaaay…now what? Seems very uninspired for someone who wants to inspire & be inspired.

But when the order arrived from Artbeads with my extra Swarovski flowers I knew I made the right decision. I can totally see these as hair adornment: perfect for a bridal party, the prom or any formal event – or even just to jazz up your hair any day of the week.

And remember when I said this would be not very challenging? I was left scratching my head when trying to decide what glue to use. I have just about every kind of glue you could imagine for jewelry making or crafting. I decided the best glue for this would be Zap-A-Gap: it’s like Super Glue, but also waterproof & will adhere to any surface, even oily ones, and dries clear. Seemed pretty fool proof.

Only it was slightly tricky. I had to find just the right pressure to hold the component onto the hair pin and keep it really straight so that it would adhere evenly. I did not want to use a clamp or tool for this in case it damaged the Swarovski component. So it was a little tense & frustrating to start out trying to decide how much pressure and for how long to hold…and not glue my fingers to it! 😉

But once experimenting with one the other three worked up quite quickly.

I was excited with the results. The glue cured for 24 hours and this is one solid unit.

I decided an elegant pair of earrings to go with these were in order. I simply paired them with 8mm freshwater pearls, antique gold culinary grade lead free pewter bead caps and gold filled ear hooks….

Remember that original component Artbeads sent me that inspired this whole project? Well, I made a ring out of it, glued onto an adjustable filigree ring base:

I am really impressed with how this project turned out (and am now totally hooked on Swarovski flowers!!) and will definitely be offering this on a by request basis on my website. Stay tuned!

Jewelry Inspired: Funky Copper Disc Choker

I added a little somethin’-somethin’ to my Artfire Studio today. This copper choker has been sitting on the bench for some time begging to be finished. I bought these copper discs – no word of a lie – 10 years ago. I used to buy a fair bit of Estate sell-offs back when ebay wasn’t so saturated. I admit at the time, being new to the jewelry making game, I wasn’t aware of the size when I bought them. 15mm just didn’t compute in my brain as being on the large side. So when the lot arrived – almost 100 – I had no idea what to do with them. They seemed so big and flying saucer like…

So they sat in the supply pile for well, a decade. Then this summer I decided to pick up some copper headpins, and see if I could make one of my signature funky chunky bracelets.

(Oh and I decided to pair up the discs with a 3.3mm bicone copper bead to add some dimension…)

I wanted the piece to be really solid so I started putting the discs really close together on the links of dash dot sterling silver chain (I love this chain by the way – although it is expensive it is really heavy duty, perfect for projects like this). It definitely was solid…however by doing this it did not have much bend…kind of hard to make into a bracelet. Since I already started it, I didn’t want to dismantle and start again, and I knew I had a fair bit of beads, so I decided to turn it into a choker.

So I got the beads put on and then, there it sat for a very long time. About three months! I just couldn’t decide how to finish it. Although I had assembled the discs on a heavy gauge sterling silver chain, I did not like the way the sterling stood out against the copper for the extender chain portion of the necklace. I probably could have oxidized the chain, but I was lazy. Instead I found some really heavy duty vintage copper chain to finish off the piece.

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I put a fairly long extender chain on it so that it can be adjusted to wear in a variety of ways. I also like the dramatic effect it has: the large beads at the front, and the slender sleekness of the chain trailing down in the back…I really love how it feels like a puzzle in your hands.

This is a piece for someone who wants to make a bold statement, and own a truly one-of-a-kind. I know I could never get these beads again. They are assumed “vintage” although I cannot confirm this…

Jewelry Inspired: Sparkly Reconstituted Smoky Quartz…

Expanding on yesterday’s post, that lately I have been working with colour themes, I now introduce you to one day’s project: fun with reconstituted smoky quartz. Essentially, these are glass beads that contain particles of smoky quartz. So yes, they are “just” glass but are they ever so pretty! I don’t purchase a lot of glass anymore but when I saw how these faceted beads danced under the lights I had to have them. They are a nice size too – 12mm, so they really make a statement.

Initially, I set out to make one of my signature chunky bracelets. However, as the piece evolved it became clear that it laid better across the neckline than on the wrist. And so, voilà – this piece was born:

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Unfortunately, my photography skills do not do it justice. It looks and feels like a million bucks on. This is probably due to the heavy sterling silver dot dash chain, as well as the 22 gauge sterling silver wire each bead is affixed on the chain with. I also made sure to make it adjustable length wise so that it could be worn in different ways: choker style or longer. I love how it looks and feels on –

I was really, really tempted to keep it for my own personal collection!

If you can imagine, this was a fairly labour intensive project, so I finished up my adventures in sparkly amber coloured bead land with two elegant and tasteful pairs of earrings:

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That was fun! I am really hoping to find time to do more projects like this!

Jewelry Inspired: Aqua Blues…

So the other day I had the opportunity to have an adventure in sea blue – or aqua blue as these particular beads are properly called. I currently have dyed quartz and fiber optic cat’s eye beads in aqua blue. I have beads of all colours of the rainbow in the cabinet…so I love to get requests for specific colours to work with esp. if it is one I have not touched in awhile. I mean really, do I need an excuse to get creative? Twist my rubber arm…

Check out these dyed faceted quartz beads paired with sterling silver hoops. I tell you, the pictures do not do these babies justice: so pretty and sparkly!

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I also have many round 4mm dyed quartz beads. Kind of boring, you know? So I had this idea to wrap them around some memory wire  – the bracelet size – with 24ga sterling silver wire to make a fun & funky hoop earring. I have not worked in memory wire in a long time, & due to the success of this experiment I think I will be doing more projects using memory wire in this way. I can also see making some cool pendants & such as well, not just earrings!

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The hoops face back-to-front when you wear them – just like a normal pair of hoop earrings. I decided to put them on sterling silver French ear hooks (earwires) for comfort.

Finally, I really love the look of this hue of blue with white, so I wanted to make a dangly pair coupled with a freshwater pearl accent…and here you have it: 4mm dyed quartz, fiber optic cat’s eye beads and 5mm frewshwater pearls on sterling silver:

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It was really fun to work with this colour amongst all the Fall colours here in Québec…really makes me long for white sandy beaches and turquoise seas! 🙂

Jewelry Inspired: Fire Agate in Sterling Silver ~ Finding Creativity Again…

I sold my “Day of the Dead” earrings,  so I wanted to make something in replacement. I was drawn toward these faceted fire agate beads that I picked up at a Gem & Mineral Show this summer. Not exactly falling into the category of, “leftovers” but  I have been jonesing for some true creativity & inspiration lately, so I’ll take it wherever it appears!! 🙂

This always happens when I go away. While on vacation, my mind is turned on. I get lots of ideas for marketing, photography backgrounds…what I would like to make and designs…however when I sit back down at the bench my head and hands just don’t seem to be communicating. What we got here is (a) failure…to communicate… 😉

So earlier this week I sat down with the beads and some sterling silver wire. I knew that I wanted them wire wrapped, that I wanted them to be somewhat free formed and more rugged/edgy than elegant, certainly not  “perfect” – but would have a universal appeal and style. I tried a heavy gauge square wire. Then a  heavy gauge round wire. Both attempts ended up in the scrap pile. I found myself digging out the bead caps and making a simple yet beautiful pair of fire agate earrings…

The only problem is, it nagged me all night and into the morning. It’s not what I wanted to do – at all! Although they looked great it wasn’t what I was going for. So out came the nippers and cut cut cut…I dismantled them. I could have gotten two more beads out of the stash but – these were the ones I wanted to work with. So with determination I sat down again. This time with a 20 gauge round sterling wire. I was amazed at how fast and easy these worked up:

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These earrings were such a joy to make. They were truly meant to be. They also reminded me to never give up – and to never settle. The creativity will come back…it always does… 🙂