Thursday, December 7, 2017

Art Bead Scene Ornament Hop

Every year the Art Bead Scene blog hosts an Ornament Hop where participants are encouraged to make holiday ornaments using handmade components or beads.  While this is their 7th year, it's my first time playing along and I had a blast! 

This year I decided to try my hand at making some needle felted Christmas ornaments.  I got inspired last year when I saw a blog post by my friend Diane Ptaszynski over on the Art Jewelry Elements blog.  (You can see her tutorial HERE.)  I was intrigued by the idea and already had some wool roving that I had bought to felt some beads and focals...  now I just needed to collect some cookie cutters and better needles.  I gathered my supplies this fall and got busy once everything had arrived!

Here are a couple of process pictures...  First, me getting all stabby on a Christmas Tree.  I love that, assuming the cat would let me have my lap, I could work on these while stretched out on the couch watching bad tv or movies! 

After getting the tree shape all felted, I started playing with how I wanted to embellish the design.  Thanks to Heather Powers for teaching me some basic bead embroidery on the Bead Cruise a few years ago!  (She also taught me how to needle felt and lit that initial spark in me.) 

Now, drumroll please, I introduce to you my very first three needle felted ornaments!  I'm pretty pleased with how I was able to felt the eyes and nose of the snowman as well as the top of the stocking.  The snowman's hat isn't quite how I'd like it, but I still think it works.  I've gotten a new set of metal cookie cutters since I did these three and I think the new snowman cutter is going to give a more distinct hat shape.  Time will tell!  I had a large gauge needle that I bought to work with deerskin leather lace that worked great for pulling the ribbon through.  My last step for the tree ornament was to felt some extra wool roving to the back to cover the threads from the embroidery. 

Thanks for stopping by to see my ornaments!  I hope you'll stop by the ABS Blog HERE to see what everyone else made too.  Whatever holidays you celebrate, I hope that you have a happy and joyous holiday season!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Inspiration for the Honey Do List December 2017

Last year, my husband Eric has decided to issue me a design challenge each month to get me out of my comfort zone and to help clear out my bead stash... and we're continuing the Honey Do List for 2017!  I know that I'm not the only one who loves a good design challenge, so I'm hoping folks will continue to play along!  

Here's this month's inspiration and what Eric had to say about it:

This month's challenge is kind of a strange one!  Tiring of flowers and such, I figured I'd get a little funky.  I took this picture in Virginia at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens.  It was cold, windy and sparse.  These tall skeletal trees were rattling and groaning in the wind, conjuring up moody images in my mind.  I superimposed a photo of clouds on this to give an even moodier mist effect on this to fit the mood I had when taking the shot.  This one should push you to try something unusual!

So, put on your thinking caps and play along with us!  The reveal date will be Sunday, December 31st... a little later than usual due to the holidays.  To make it super easy for you to participate and share your creations, I'll set up an Inlinkz link up so folks can add their blogs as they are ready.  Just stop by my blog starting on December 31st and join the fun!  I'll leave the link up open for a while... so you have plenty of time to add your links.  (Last month's is still open... check it out HERE.)  No blog?  No worries!  Feel free to send me a picture of your creation and some brief comments and I'll happily share in my blog post.  You can reach me at  The more the merrier, so I hope you'll play along with me this month!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Inspired by Reading: The Bean Trees

This month's Inspired by Reading Book Club selection was The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver.  Somehow I've gone my whole reading life without reading anything by Kingsolver... but now book club has changed that! 

Originally published in 1988, you really have to read this as a period piece... so many things would play out a little differently in the modern world.  I love that the main character is super plucky and independent and that she manages to make things work out for herself.  One of the big things that I took away from the book is that you make your own family and have the power to write your own story.   

The title actually comes from another name for Wisteria vine.  People tend to think of the wonderful purple flowers that seem to just drip from the woody vines, but their seeds actually hang from the plant in pods that look very much like green beans.  At first I thought I was going to use one of my Vintaj embossing folders that has wisteria on it and do some painting with the patina paints but time just wasn't on my side for that project.  But then I remembered that I had picked up a set of little pod charms from Anna Bronze at Bead & Button this year.  I paired them with some purple floral disk beads from Heather Powers of Humblebeads and Czech glass.

I made a second pair of earrings that are more about the general look and feel of the Southwest.  I had snagged some small lentil beads from Golem Design Studio that have a terra cotta color as their base.  I kept these pretty simple to dangle off the long arched ear wires.

Thanks for stopping by to see my new creations!  I'm always hoping that I'll manage something more ambitious, but with my holiday shows bearing down upon me, I'm lucky that I got this much done!  Next month is a holiday break from book club, so I'm hoping that I can get a jump start on the January selection.  Wish me luck!!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Art Bead Scene: November 2017 Take Two

This month's Art Bead Scene challenge inspiration is a painting by French impressionist Armand Guillaumin.  You can read more about the artist and the challenge over on the ABS blog HERE.  I've been pretty smitten with this color palette and am glad that I managed to get back around to making one more design inspired by it before November disappears.

Title: Crozant, The Bouchardon Mill
By: Armand Guillaumin
Date: 1906
Medium: Oil on Canvas

One of the art beads that had originally caught my eye for this challenge is one of Erin Prais-Hintz's gorgeous pendants from her Papilio collection.  (If you haven't already figured this out, I'm really addicted to Erin's creations that she shares through her business, Tesori Trovati.)  This one is Papilio: Euselasia and is just an wonderful combination of soft colors.  And, speaking of soft, Erin finished the polymer clay to a satiny soft finish that you will not believe!

For this strung necklace I added a collection of beads in different materials including Czech glass, plated hematite, vintage plastic, and Swarovski pearls.  I had fun playing with a variety of shapes and finishes. 

I'm planning on whipping up some dangle earrings to go along with this one before my Holiday Open House on Sunday.  And with that said, I'd better get back to work!!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Honey Do List: November 2017

Last year, my husband Eric has decided to issue me a design challenge each month to get me out of my comfort zone and to help clear out my bead stash... and we're continuing the Honey Do List for 2017!  I know that I'm not the only one who loves a good design challenge, so I'm hoping folks will continue to play along!  

Here's this month's inspiration and what Eric had to say about it:

I haven't really taken many pictures in the past month, so I took this chance to delve deep into older photos for something lost in the archives.  This is a really cool old stained glass window in the Schlitz Brewery building in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that really struck my fancy.  The colors and shapes should be a fun change from my usual naturalistic photos. 

Even though these colors aren't necessarily in my normal wheelhouse, I got pretty excited about this month's challenge.  It probably doesn't hurt that I love stained glass!  Anyway, I pretty much immediately started pulling together some possible beads to play with.  Here's a sample of what I gathered up:

The first art beads that jumped out at me were a set of lampwork beads that I bought last month at the Twin Cities Bead Bazaar from Donna Millard.  (If I'm honest, I probably would have skipped the show this time but I wanted to see Donna's work in person.)  Anyway, I immediately pictured a set in my mind's eye using the really cool, almost tribal beads in black and cream... so that's what I did... sort of.

I love all the circles in Eric's inspiration photo and I wanted to keep playing with that shape beyond the lampwork focal bead.  Luckily, I had a nice selection of coin beads to choose from in yellows and grey.  (I ended up choosing some vintage glass, Labradorite, and faceted Yellow Jade.)  To continue with the circle theme, I also picked a cone with some swirly circles to round out the pendant focal I built up.  I mixed up Vintaj Arte Metal and silver plated findings and chain to complete the design.

A closer (and better!) look at the focal and tassel.

Next, I intended to make a bracelet... this is where my plan went a little off the rails.  I wire wrapped one of Donna's lampwork beads with some Czech glass and little "pringle" spacers.  (Ok, I don't know what they're actually called, but that's my name for them!)  Unfortunately, the resulting bead unit was a little too long for my bracelet focal but I'd already gone through the work of cleaning, hammering, and sealing the steel wire for the link so I didn't want to tear it apart.  Never fear, the set had three beads so this one quickly became a second necklace!  I dangled some little beads and a small black key charm from the bottom and put it on a long length of chain.  Voila!

Back at the drawing board for my bracelet design, I tried again for a steel wire wrapped focal bead unit.  This time I kept it really simple with just Donna's bead and the little pringle spacers.  Much better!  I then made a chain of wire wrapped beads including faceted pyrite, Czech glass, and the black lampwork beads that came with the set.  This bracelet is a little on the petite side size wise, but I could always add more links if a customer needed more length.  

Last, but not least, I also whipped up a little pair of coordinating earrings to complete my new Honey Do List set.  I picked out a little pair of grey cocoon beads from my friend Anna Pierson of Saga Hus.  I had the same pearlescent yellowy-ivory Czech glass rondelles in a slightly larger size than what I used in the necklaces that made great dangles for these little ear bobs.

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Saturday, November 18, 2017

We're All Ears: November 2017

This month's We're All Ears challenge hosted by Erin Prais-Hintz over on the Earrings Everyday blog is all about inspirational quotes.  As our friend Loralee pointed out, words are Erin's magic (or at least part of her magic!).  She gave us four options to choose from:

I found this challenge a little more, well, challenging than some.  The first quote that sparked something for me was A... "stars can't shine without darkness."  I'm guessing this one worked for me because stars were something that I could grab onto. 

I had just bought a set of Starry Night faux tin charms from Heather Powers of Humblebeads fame, so this seemed like an obvious starting place for me.  I pared them with star cut aquamarines (get it, star cut?!?) and some tiny dark blue Czech glass rondelles.  I think that these are for me so I kept them pretty simple and just added some grey with sterling niobium ear wires on the top.

Next up I made something for D... "never stop growing."  Now, at first I thought those objects on the leaf were acorns.  After slipping off my glasses and taking a closer look I'm not so sure that I was right.  Regardless, I interpreted them that way and the photo does have a very autumnal feel to it, so I made some acorn earrings!  I bought some silver plated acorn bead caps from Nunn Design a while back and I'm finally getting around to using them.  I've got a fall show coming up in a few weeks, so this seemed like a good time to get going!

I managed to pull something together for one last prompt, B... "Chart Your Own Course."  I grabbed some compass decorivets from Vintaj that I've had for a bit and never done anything with for my first pair.  I just bent the rivet pieces on the back side into nice loops and added the ear wires and some labradorite teardrops by way of jump rings connected to the loops.  They are a little bit on the big side, but pretty light weight.

A little more abstract, I had some earring charms from Erin herself that I got as a prize for the Art Bead Scene challenge a few months ago.  They were part of her Minutia line... you can see some other options in her store on her Tesori Trovati website.  I'm guessing that her intention for the design was more floral, but they read a little bit compass-like to me for some reason.  I decided to just go with it... I could use a few more designs with some sparkle as we head into the holidays anyway!  I kept it simple and just made little dangles with some Swarovski crystals, copper plated spacers, and some plated hematite.  I think these would be a perfect accessory for a holiday party!

With everything that's been going on in my life this month (both good and bad) I'm pretty proud of myself for getting this many designs completed.  There's no rest for the weary (or the wicked!) since I've got two shows coming up in early December.  Thanks for stopping by... I hope you'll head over to the Earrings Everyday blog HERE to see what everyone else was inspired to make this month!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Art Bead Scene: November 2017

This month's Art Bead Scene challenge inspiration is a painting by French impressionist Armand Guillaumin.  You can read more about the artist and the challenge over on the ABS blog HERE.  I'm pretty smitten with this color palette and have been looking forward to focusing on this challenge.

Title: Crozant, The Bouchardon Mill
By: Armand Guillaumin
Date: 1906
Medium: Oil on Canvas

This one really got my creative juices going!  Before I knew it I had a bunch of art beads hanging out on my bead mat.  The first project that I decided to work on was a great excuse to break out my brand new Now That's a Jig that I bought last month.  I had the right gauge copper wire to make the charm holder pendant that Heather Powers taught us at her Inspired by Nature retreat, so that was my starting point for my necklace.  Two of the charms that I got from the retreat's charm swap (one from Heather and one from my friend Anna of Saga Hus) were perfect for the artworks color palette.  I added in a ceramic feather headpin from Artisticaos to complete the charm grouping.  Instead of using leather for the necklace (even though I had some light purple leather that would have worked well), I decided to finish it with chain and some beaded links made with Czech glass and plated hematite. 

Keeping with a Heather Powers/Humblebeads theme... I had to make a pair of earrings with some earring charms that I bought from Heather at last year's Inspired by Nature retreat!  She had just debuted this style and I had to pick up a couple of pairs including a vibrant set that I think works well with the ABS inspiration painting.  I added some Czech glass dangles but otherwise kept my design minimal.

I have a couple more ideas rattling around my head for this month's challenge.  We'll see if I end up getting back around to them with all my show prep that I have to do.  Fingers crossed that I get into my creative groove and really pound some things out!