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Hi, gang. I know it’s been a while since I checked in, but it’s summer and I have even less bench time than usual. But it’s summer! And it has been so mild and beautiful. What better time to think about fall?

Here’s what’s on my bench…  (It’s Bead Table Wednesday.)

Copper and turquoise.  No, that’s not turquoise, but it was sitting with my photo props and is making its internet debut.  I actually don’t know what stone it is; I inherited my great aunt’s rock collection and I think it was in there.  She used to polish her own cabs — very cool.  I remember digging through her dops and tumbled rocks and such when I was a little girl, which probably planted seeds for my love of making jewelry.

Anyway, what is the copper part of that picture?  I don’t take time to do a lot of sketch-planning in my jewelry making, but I did sketch out some things to cut out and hammer and play with for my fall line, which I’m calling Sedona.  I’m planning to use hammered copper, plenty of turquoise (and other teal things), some verdigris patina on copper, and oxidized silver.  Like this…


Leather, copper, sponge coral, turquoise, c. 2007

Alas, my studio is across the hall from my sleeping kids so I haven’t done much hammering lately.  It forces me to plan more, which is a good thing.

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Sea glass clusters

I’ve got summer and beaches on the brain.  Steve and I love to comb the sand (on certain beaches) looking for sea glass. I have containers full of pieces waiting to be made into jewelry, so in anticipation of beach season I made up a grouping of these charm cluster pendants.
I love the puns that people use in naming a beach house

Each necklace has a piece of sea glass or chalcedony, a sealife charm, and stamped phrase like “beach babe” or “by the sea.”

I used my newest set of letter stamps which are tiny lowercase letters.  They’re especially hard to stamp perfectly straight, so I am embracing the whimsical look that results.  These are headed to the shop downtown, but feel free to email me if you’d like something similar.  I can customize the phrase I stamp if you prefer your kids’ names or (ahem) the name of *your* beach house.

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Personalized Pieces

I have made hundreds of necklaces for moms and grandmothers representing their families.  Stamped discs and other shapes, one tag per name or all the names on one like this grandmother’s tag. (This is her son’s family and her daughter’s family was on a second tag.)

I really like the look of initials with a dot border…

… so I decided to make one for myself now that we have Bowen.  Except if I do my children’s initials it’s either a type of tampon (OB) or body odor (BO – also that looks like just Bowen’s name).  So I thought I’d add Steve’s initials to make an odd number, but if I put them in order of appearance in my life it makes SOB.  Add in my own initials and people are going to think I’m really into Japanese noodles.

So back to square one with just my kids’ names…  I could collectively refer to them as Bolivia.  Or oboe.  And so it goes… The cobbler’s kids remain barefoot and I don’t have a stamped name necklace to wear.

Mother’s Day is coming up, so please don’t wait until May to request a personalized necklace for a mom in your life.

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Color inspiration

Do you ever get in a rut with color?  For me I get stuck on robin-egg blue for spring, and burnt orange in fall.  The color wheel is just not that inspiring for me, so if you told me to use a triadic color scheme I wouldn’t get much beyond this.

Bright orange, purple, and green.

Sometimes I just have to see just the colors in question together to get excited about it, and sometimes it takes a version of the color to inspire me, like coral instead of bright orange.  Today (ahem, during the sermon at church) I couldn’t stop staring at my paisley belt.  I never would have put plum, olive, sage, salmon, and orchid together but it totally worked.  And look!  It’s almost the same triadic combination, but a springy fresh version of it.

And then I was thinking about how the jewelry version of the belt would be something from Laura Gibson.

Brandi Hussey is a whiz with color and has written a tutorial on how to use a picture to create a color palette in Photoshop.  So I tried it.

When you’re looking for new color combinations, take your camera to a store that sells fabric or fine stationery.

Notecard from PaperSource

Or find a fine art image, like the monthly challenge over on Art Bead Scene.

And then make a palette from it, even if you just do it in your head.  And then make jewelry that incorporates colors from that palette.  Mix some colors and don’t worry about the rules!

Update:  Molly has a great suggestion down in the comments (Thanks!):
May I also suggest using this amazing tool from Sherman Williams for creating a color pallet from any image. It’s called Chip It! And you can add it to your tool bar just like the Pinterest “Pin It” button. You can check it out here:  It is a designers dream!!

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Our plumber, Glen, came to swap out the faucet in the hall bath so our 3-year-old can wash her hands by herself.  I had called him after deciding that cutting copper supply lines was outside of our DIY realm, and after Glen was finished he was collecting all the pieces and I asked if he had plans for the old copper pipes and that brass ring thingy.  When he said they were just going in his scrap bin to recycle, I was all like, “What else is in there?”  One person’s trash is another’s treasure. 

Look at that natural verdigris
I am planning to cut the pipe into segments to be sliders on Viking knitting or braided wire.  (My tutorials for Viking Weave and Vertebraid can be found here.)

What’s on your bead table this week?

Update 4/22: Glen brought me a whole bag full of those brass rings.  Yay!
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State of the Studio

I don’t clean my studio, not really.  Sometimes I’ll put things away to decrease the number of geologic layers, but I know where everything is.  I know even this picture makes some people ill, but sometimes when I see something from an unrelated project laying next to the pieces I’m working with, it gives me an idea I wouldn’t have had otherwise.  And when I put stuff away it is out of mind, or I just plain lose it.  Like the wooden letters I bought to decorate my daughter’s bedroom wall and “put away” in my studio.  I remember them every once in a while and go looking until I get sidetracked.  Today I finally found them and the receipt in the bag is dated 4/19/09.  At least she hasn’t left for college yet.
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Painting With Fire

I have learned lots of techniques within the scope of jewelrymaking: wirework, soldering, polymer clay, beading, resin, lampwork, PMC, the list goes on.  There are certain things that just don’t interest me at all, and one of those has been enamel.  Powdered glass melted onto the surface of metal, usually in a kiln.  I skipped the Thompson Enamel booth at the last PMC Guild Conference.  Call me a purist, but I like the neutrality (goes with everything) and polishability (is that a word) of silver by itself.  I could bring color into a piece with beads, plus I didn’t care for the garishly bright enameled pieces I had seen.  But last year Barbara Lewis published this book about torch-firing enamel, and she asked different jewelry bloggers to write what they really thought about the book and technique.  We saw torch-enameled beads popping up all over the jewelry web, and many of them used a filigree base lightly coated with beautiful glass.  My interest was piqued by Jen Judd’s necklace at the artBLISS* Meet & Greet.  Beautiful enameled filigree beads in blues and greens.  I had a tough time making eye contact instead of staring at the necklace.  So I bought a torch-fired enamel kit.  After all, I already have (most of) a lampwork station and it works for both.

That was December.  Today it is the second week of March and we’re having 80-degree weather, so during naptime I decided to try torch enameling out in the garage with my “big” butane torch, the one that melts silver way too fast.  I figured I’d see if I liked it before spending my free time trying to get my propane tank and lampwork torch to talk to each other.  I skimmed the tutorial, lit my torch, unscrewed the cap on an enamel jar, jabbed a few beads, and went at it. 

I know you’re not supposed to use enamel straight from the jar.  You are also not supposed to eat peanut butter straight from the jar.  Don’t tell, ok?

*While I’m off topic I’d like to mention that artBLISS is happening again in Northern Virginia September 21-23, 2012.  Registration opens soon, and you can sign up for the mailing list to get notified:

So anyway, aside from having to refill my butane I just kept heating and dunking beads.  It was so fun and easy!  And no kiln annealing like with lampwork; you can use your beads as soon as they’re cool.  I only burnt myself twice.  Ahem.  Here is what I made today.

Now a Thompson Enamel booth would be like a candy store!  Good thing I can mail-order from Barbara (Painting With Fire Artwear).  If you’re interested in learning how to do this technique, check out Barbara’s blog with links to everything you need.

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And for the record

So after I wrote about the 800th earrings it took me another day before I started wondering how many necklaces I was up to.  (Seriously. I don’t have time to notice stuff like this.)  Here is a necklace in the current grouping I’m prepping for the shop, N900. 

That’s right, the nine HUNDREDTH necklace I have inventoried.  This just blows my mind because it doesn’t even count the dozens (hundreds?) of stamped personalized necklaces, like this one I did last week with my new handprint and footprint tags.

My daughter has been bringing home sweet little handprint artwork from preschool, and the little foot reminds me of the “fingerprinting” they did on my son as a newborn.  This necklace is for someone else, but that reminds me I still need to add a “Bowen” tag to my “Olivia” necklace.  What is that saying about the cobbler’s kids having no shoes?

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800 pairs and counting

I’ve been pricing and tagging new inventory for the shop and as I wrote “E800” on the back of an earring card it struck me: this is the 800th pair of earrings I have made. That doesn’t count the countless pairs I made that didn’t stick around long enough to get a number, or the ones I made in my pre-professional jewelry life.  (You can read more about that era here.)  And I’m sure there are other jewelry artists who have inventoried way more than 800 pairs of earrings. But AnneMade Jewelry is coming up on its 8th birthday next month and it’s fun to think about the different chapters of my story.  (You can read about chapter one here.)  And I sometimes struggle with the instinct to one-up myself with every new piece of jewelry.  But I’m striving to showcase good materials with simple settings, so while there’s a lot I could do with a fluorite briolette and an earhook I have come to love the beautiful simplicity of earrings like E800.  I don’t need to win awards for creativity or earn badges for making each new piece different than anything that came before it.  I just need to make jewelry because it keeps me sane!
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Wire Button Bail

Hi, gang.  I have been sqeezing in studio time here and there, working on a grouping for the shop downtown.  When my son was born in October he slept all the time, so I was able to keep making jewelry for the Christmas season. 

My newest studio helper

But as Bowen has gotten older his naps don’t usually coincide with Olivia’s naps, so now my bench time is that much more precious.  I apologize if I don’t update my blog a whole lot; it’s just something I’ve had to cut out along with listing jewelry for sale online. 

A while ago I found some old steel cut buttons in an antique store.  They were from the estate of a button collector, lovingly arranged on a card.  I took one off to give to a friend who loves romantic-vintage stuff like that.  The second one came off the card today when I was creating this sampler necklace inspired by another that sold right after I made it. 

The floral centerpiece is a PMC piece I made, and the dangles include freshwater pearls, vintage crystals, sterling silver beads, quartz, and an antique button from my precious stash.  If you’ve ever tried to dangle a shank button without having it tip forward or altering the shank, you know my challenge for today’s studio time.  Now I’m sharing my tricks with you.  Here is the bail I created as a solution.

Reverse side
Forming the loops after putting the wire through the shank is harder than it looks, especially when using half-hard wire.  Once I did that, though, I squeezed the loops tight around the shank so the bail wouldn’t jiggle.  Then I pressed the top of the bail forward so it would sit close to the top of the button (the center of gravity) to prevent the whole thing from tipping forward.

I did something similar with a big, orphan bead cap that has been laying on my bench for awhile.  Rather than capping a huge bead, I wanted to frame a small pearl but I didn’t want it to hang face-down.
I threaded the pearl, bead cap, and a small sterling bead onto a headpin, which I then bent sharply so it would stay put.  I bent the headpin to follow the contour of the bead cap, through a hole in the cap’s edge, and into a hanging loop.