Saturday, September 17, 2011

Another Serving of Bead Gumbo, S'il Vous Plait.

Ok, I have a few things left to post, but I don't know if I can get them up until most of you are asleep. Kate sent me three of her hand-hammered copper rings, one of which came as a toggle with a bar. Well, I joined them all together and they look like chain, which I absolutely love! I need about 25 more of these fabulous rings; I'd join them all together and make one long, chunky chain.

Anyway, I linked these up with lots of antiqued copper chain and some irregularly shaped turquoise nuggets. The necklace is my version of a "bib" necklace, I suppose. Asymmetrical, as usual. Kate did such a fantastic job creating a rich, warm patina on her copper links.

I'm wearing this to the Saints' game tomorrow!

Bead Gumbo: Today is the Day!

Here are all of the partner's for the September 2011 Bead Soup Blog Party: Lori, we can't thank you enough. Where you find the energy, I'll never know. I think the drawing for next time is a fabulous idea, by the way!!!

As usual, I'm running a bit behind. I fell asleep at 8 pm last night and didn't wake up until 7 am this morning. Obviously I needed the sleep! I did, however, finish all my pieces. I'll be posting them here and there today; I can't do it all at one time because I have to work today. So, with that caveat...

The first necklace I want to post is the one I have a hard time believing that I actually made, and yet, it's one of my favorites.

I didn't do a single thing I said I wanted to do in my last blog: I didn't use any pearls, I didn't use every bead, I went big and bold...I didn't use any silk thread! I decided instead to use wrapped loops as much as I can. I'm horrible at wrapped loops. They make my hands ache. I don't know how you ladies do it! My friend Heidi's loops are always perfect. Check out her BSBP at (
But, all-in-all, I am very happy with this piece. Kate ( sent me these gorgeous 16 mm carnelian beads. I wrapped those up on copper wire and put them with 20 to 35 mm long african opal briolettes and a HUGE 80 mm long carved Asianesque bead that I had picked up last year at a bead show here in NOLA. [See? I buy big beads; I just rarely use them, lol] I also used oxidized silver rollo chain (I can't give up everything!). Oh, and another big ethnic bead; a hollow brass bead with a black jet cab. [Three different types of metal!]

Upside down, boy, you turn me, inside out...

 I made my own hammered copper
clasp. You would think that with
all those big beads this necklace
would be super heavy, but it's not.

Kate sent me these lovely coral nuggets, tiger's eye rounds, and her unique, hand-crafted polymer clay rondelle's. I loved the way the colors blend and complement each other. And I love big, hanging, chandelier-type earrings. Yes, my weakness, but they have to be lightweight. These fit that bill perfectly.

Big and bold with copper chain!

Corny, maybe, but that's
what inspired me. Ole!
 I think they look like Flamenco dancers. You know, the way the sleeves on the male dancer's shirt are layered with ruffles? Or the senorita's ruffled skirt? That's how I see the coral. The center bead is the "head" of the dancer---his "arms" raised above his head, clapping in time to the music...

So, here in Louisiana, we love a hearty kind of soup or stew called "gumbo." First you have to make a roux, which becomes the base (and the flavor!) of the stock. Kate really sent me beads that made a great "base" for me to work with!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Two Blogs in Less Than a Week!

I'm still rolling on necklaces, especially my necklace for the BSBP, but I've started to work on earrings as well. Earrings for Halloween, no less! Last year I didn't start early enough. This was a harsh lesson to learn. I'm still the world's greatest procrastinator, but I recognize my problem and I'm dealing with it. Tomorrow:)
This is a necklace I made the other day with irregularly shaped coral beads accented by turquoise and silver. I could not resist making the necklace into the shape of an arrowhead for display purposes. I think the coral looks like Indian corn. 
This is a close-up of the copper toggle, handcrafted by me.

Speaking of toggles, pictured below are two toggles I made from silver clay (actually the bar portion is not in this photo). There are also three small charms formed from silver clay. I want them to look beat up, like metal artifacts that just came out of the ground. I still need to dip them in liver of sulfur. The toggle at the back is going on a strand of pearls; the toggle in the foreground is going to a lovely strand of turquoise from that I am in the process of stringing on brown silk thread.

I'm also trying to finish up a relatively simple necklace, but just can't seem to commit to one strand of chain or two. I'm leaning towards two. This design, from bottom to top, consists of a large rose quartz bead attached to an ethnic brass/enamel coin-shaped hollow bead. The chain is actually antiqued brass, though in this photo it looks more like antiqued silver (hmmm, something to think about).

Below are a few pairs of my funky, hopefully scary, Halloween earrings. I have playfully (twistedly?) dubbed them Skull Fairies. I was inspired by Day of the Dead imagery and those tiny aluminum flowers!

Court Jester
(Kind of Beetlejuice to me, but perhaps I flatter myself)

Dancing Skeletons
(These remind me of those weird squiddies from the movie Matrix)

Finally, I'd like to include a photo of my friend Heidi. This picture was taken at her birthday tea this past weekend. We had a great time at the English Tea Room in Covington, LA. I had a tea named Sgt. Peppers; it was a Rooibus with cayenne and some other type of pepper. Very tasty.
Hail to the Queen!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Gearing Up to Finish My Bead Gumbo

First, I'd like to wish Heidi a very, very Happy Birthday! She actually took a well-deserved day (or two) off! Hope you are enjoying your day!

Last post I briefly described the kinds of necklaces I make and I thought I'd show some of my recent work. I've been making a lot of jewelry lately, necklaces especially, even though I'm not quite done with my BSBP creation. It's my way to 'warm up,' like I do before I go for a run--a little stretching, jump  up and down a bit, wave my arms around, hammer a toggle clasp, etc.

So, to keep in practice, I've been working on things a little every night. This is a first for me. I usually get everything done at the last minute, the night before. Such a horrible habit. These are pretty simple pieces. Notice that 2/3 of the sample pictured here are turquoise. I do love turquoise; like, significantly to the .05 confidence level, ha! The two pictured on the left came from Magpie Gemstones.

Here's a close-up of the necklace that's left-of-center in the previous photo. In this photo,
left to right, is pyrite, quartz, carnelian, and a sparkly druzy that had such a tiny hole
I had to string it on super fine beading wire (snuck some pearls in there, see that?)

This necklace is a little busier, but not too much. All those vintage royal blue white-heart beads provide a pretty stable backdrop for the cluster of charms and other vintage beads on the right side. I used as many different types of metal as I possibly could, but in small doses. I always try to use a second type of metal in whatever I'm working on. 

Another version below...busier still, but I like it. Again, white-heart beads, this time in what I would describe as 'sky blue,' just like in a box of 52 crayons. They aren't quite 'turquoise blue.' 

It can be worn doubled, as a shorter--
but not strangling--choker. It can also be
wrapped around the wrist as a bracelet.

 This is one of my favorites. It looks equally good with a t-shirt and jeans or a little black something. I'm into the clear quartz faceted nuggets, folks. Big time:) I think they look edgy with a little gunmetal something.

There is a funny story about the necklace--left and below--which was inspired by my friend, Cassady. The punchline is: I started it 5 years ago and finished it this past Saturday (we were rained in over the weekend and the holiday; very stormy here in NOLA).

Actually, maybe it's not such a funny story. Sometimes it takes me awhile to finish a piece. What an understatement!

I think the inclusion on this piece of jasper looks like a little
bird sitting on a branch (turn your head to the left, I can't get
the picture rotated). A lil' bird, or chipa, right Cass?

Gratuitous pic of my sister, Dree, and me. I've got on the
sunglasses. This was taken last weekend at our party.
No, I haven't written about it yet. I didn't finish all of the
necklaces, duh, but I got close. More on that at a later
time. I'm still feeling a lil' bummed about it.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Bead Soup: First You Make a Roux?

This is a blog to show off the wickedly awesome beads I received as a participant in the Fall 2011 Bead Soup Blog Party, to introduce the woman who sent the beads, and to very briefly describe the early stages of the design process for my necklace.

As usual, it's taken me twice as long as I anticipated to get a blog posted on the beads I received for the Bead Soup Blog Party...and I received some absolutely fabulous beads from my partner,
Kate Gardenghi

Not only was Kate uber generous (she sent me so many beads), but she also chose one of my favorite color palettes: turquoise and coral.

Kate sent a luscious selection of beads in a variety of shades and textures. Big carnelian rounds and turquoise heishi/rondelles, petite coral nuggets, adorable glass butterflies in complementary shades...

Kate made many of the beads, and the lovely pendant, from polymer clay.

The primrose pendant has been hand-painted
and distressed; it looks like a piece of
copper that's started to verdigris.

I don't know a thing about making beads like this, unfortunately. How did Kate make those wonderful swirls? The colors are so vibrant! These beads came in two shapes and sizes. The large coins---or disks, as Kate calls them---are at least 12 or 15 mm in diameter.
Theses will serve as "mini focals" around the perimeter of the necklace to complement the pendant. The rondelles are only slightly smaller.

To top it off, she hand formed the copper findings. This one says, "GROW."
[Grow on with your bad self, Kate.]

I took the photographs for this blog the day I received the beads (at least 10 days ago). I even laid out a possible design the same day (gasp!).

I wanted to craft a necklace that used the handmade copper rings as "spacers" between strands of different beads (e.g., see how the coral nuggets stretch between the two copper rings on the left side of this configuration?). The matching copper toggle clasp would serve as a "ring" at the back of the necklace (or maybe the front? No, too much with the pendant. Side? Maybe.)

[I almost forgot to mention the beautiful persimmon-colored sari ribbon that Kate sent as was the decorative ribbon around my package of beads!]

Even though the color scheme and bead types inspire me towards a Tropical-Near-the-Sea theme, I can't help thinking of my necklace as Bead Gumbo! Perhaps Bead Stew better describes my cooking style for this necklace!

To make this my own unique recipe, I am going to add a little bit of "me" to the list of ingredients (aka. South Louisiana flair, ha). That means my finished necklace must have at least two things: a little bit of chain (in this case, copper chain to match Kate's findings) and a few pearls (alright, alright...I'd like to add more than a few---I love pearls). But how do I add those key "me" ingredients without "over salting" my dish and ending up with something that's just "too much"?

I don't normally put a lot of different components in my designs; I like 'em plain and simple (e.g., pearls tied on brown silk thread with a handmade clasp). Kate provided so many beads, so many choices...why do I have to choose? Do I have the skillz to use everything and not end up with a big tacky mess?

Ummm, yes, I'm going to try and use as many of the beads that Kate sent me as possible! I think I can do it because she chose so wisely and made it easy for me!

I still like the idea of shorter segments of beads between Kate's copper rings. I think I'm going to use small white keishi pearls to make one of the segments. The white matches the white swirls in the polymer coin beads and adds another textural element to the design.

I'm not 100 percent sure how and where I'm going to work the copper chain in, but hopefully something will occur to me in the next few days. Somewhere in my head I keep linking the copper chain to the sari ribbon. [ba-dum-bump, pun intended]

I'm going to leave this challenge simmering in the "back pot" of my mind-stove (you know, the big pot that's always on the back burner of the stove, simmering with something yummy, like gumbo).

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Sometimes I'm a Scaredy Cat

I signed up for the Bead Soup exchange yesterday (thanks for reminding me, Heidi!). And to celebrate, I figured I should add a new post. The tone of this one is somewhat contemplative and a bit introspective, with a dose of honesty.

I received my weekly email from Magpie Gemstones ( alerting me to a new shipment of beads and a sale on turquoise; all of Magpie's beads are great, but her turquoise is absolutely stunning. Also included in the email was a link to an article entitled "Excellence Versus Perfectionism: The Healthy Jewelry Artist--Part I."

As soon as I saw the word "perfectionism" contrasted with the word "excellence", I knew this was going to be an article that would hold some painful truths for me. And, of course, it did. The sentence---"In its pathological form, perfectionism is a belief that work or output that is anything less than perfect is unacceptable"---pretty much sums it up for me.

I don't think I'm completely neurotic, yet (ha!); I still produce. Some pieces practically make themselves and I'm very pleased with the outcome. But sometimes---especially if I'm making something for a family member or friend---I worry about the end product to the point that I'm paralyzed and can't get anything done. Or I re-do one tiny thing over and over and over...

And the worrying sucks all the fun right out of it.

I also tend to get this way when I'm writing articles related to archaeology. I haven't identified what factor makes me tense up, but I'm pretty sure the phrase "peer review" has something to do with it:)

Anyway, I recently got this tense, scrunched-up feeling while making a necklace for my sister's 40th birthday. She sent me a photo of a similar necklace and I could tell she loved it. So I conspired with my mom, who generously paid for the "ingredients" (that's how I refer to components for a specific piece), and I got started---well in advance too. My sister's birthday was in early April. I started the necklace in January.

I just mailed it to her last week---almost 4 months after her birthday.

How could that have happened? How could a little (or not so little) nervousness make me miss a deadline by so much?

Two factors were involved: 1) I wanted to make the clasp myself out of silver clay, which I had not worked with before. [By the way, I LOVE silver clay. It's awesome and it's easy-peasy to fire with a micro-torch, as long as you follow the rules. 2) Ummm, well, I wanted the necklace to be perfect. Completely and utterly perfect without a single mistake from start to finish. Ha! Delusional.

There was a learning curve with the silver be expected, right? I was really unhappy with the bar part of the toggle clasp [Women in my family like BIG toggles. They want the toggle to function as a pendant or centerpiece. Big toggles are very hard to find, hence my interest in silver clay.] I must have made 6 or 7 bars. I couldn't make one thick enough to support the weight of the round part of the clasp without having to switch from torch firing to kiln firing. That's one of the constraints: your piece shouldn't weigh more than 25 grams, be larger than about 1.25 inches in diameter, or thicker than 2 mm. Jill Erickson has a great 'how-to' video at

So...3 months later, with lots of nail biting and teeth gnashing, avoiding my mom and sister because I'm so guilt ridden because of my tardiness, I finally decided if I didn't try another approach the necklace was never going to get finished. I grabbed a piece of 12-gauge wire, twisted a loop in the middle, smacked it around on my block, and voila. Done. Not exactly what I wanted, but I told my sis I'd make her another one. She says she loves, loves, loves it. Her words, not mine. I'm still not sure I believe her, no kidding.

Submitted for your approval...or not:) I'm gonna try not to worry so much.

This necklace is about 16.5 inches long. I've loaded it with very large freshwater keishi pearls (some are almost 2 cm across). My sister-in-law calls keishi pearls "smashed" pearls and I love that name. The pearls in this necklace are very similar in size and shape to corn flakes.

Sprinkled between the pearls are faceted quartz briolettes. I used the .019 diameter sterling silver soft flex because the components are heavy. The clasp is made from silver clay and silver wire, of course.

I'm warming up to this necklace. In general, I had better hurry up get over my weirdness. I have 6 necklaces to finish by August 26th. That's the date of our annual "girly" get together, aka. The Tata Party. Six necklaces including one for my mom, one for my sister, and the other four for a group of wonderful ladies that I'm lucky enough to be friends with! I think these will go quicker. I'll post 'em as they get done. That means they'll all be up on my blog by the night of August 25th, ha!

"If I strive to be perfect, I’ll never get where I’m going. Yet, if I strive for excellence and work to improve, I have hope." ---Karen Meador, Dream Catcher Designs

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Decisions, decisions, decisions...

There are too many decisions to be made in the course of a day. Decisions related to work and play. Major life decisions and everyday basic survival decisions. Deciding things like what to eat, when to sleep, what to wear, how to accessorize an outfit...most of these decisions we make in the blink of an eye, without even thinking about them or the consequences. Then there are "big" decisions like choosing a spouse, buying a home, picking out a washer and dryer, and accessorizing an outfit. Ha!

For me, starting a blog about the jewelry I make was a "big" decision. It's one more thing, in an already bustling, industrious, somewhat harried lifestyle, that takes time away from making jewelry. I don't have a Facebook account for the same reason (gasp! I hear all the shocked whispers out there. I do realize that I belong to a soon-to-be extinct group of Facebook holdouts).

It's not that I don't want to participate in these new millenium social networks. I visit a lot of jewelry websites. I love I read your blogs. I wish I had just a smidgen of the talent I encounter in cyberspace. It's just been easier to be on the beading fringe and have extra time to do other things like hang out with my family and friends, run with my dogs, write obscure articles about raw material package size, practice my guitar, and work in my yard.

But my good friend Heidi ( recently pointed out to me that if I don't have a blog, I can't participate in the 2011 Bead Soup Blog Hop (sign-up is August 1st-3rd at After witnessing the outcome of Heidi's involvement last year---she sent and received really wonderful beads, and created a fabulous necklace from her swag---I really didn't want a small thing like the lack of a blog to hold me back from all the potential fun.

So, I've started a blog. My title says it all...well, almost...the truth is, I'm an infrequent beader, therefore I'm going to be an infrequent blogger. Sigh...

But I'm excited about Bead Soup! It sort of reminds me of a dish-towel chain letter that my grandmother sweetly pressured me into back in the late 90's. I was really resistant at first; "chain mail" is a dirty word(s) to me and I had just started grad school at Texas A&M, so life was hectic. Who can tell a grandmother 'No'? Not me. I sent out my white flour-sack kitchen towel (boring, but practical) and got 10 ecclectic offerings in return. Hello? Anyone else remember this trend?

I think the bead soup exchange is even better! It's a neat idea because for a variety of reasons, but mostly because it's going to force me out of my jewlery 'box', so to speak, and require that I examine color, shape, and texture in a whole new way (I'm mostly left-brained, remember? This can sometimes equate to boring and routine).

We'll see how much I grow as a beader as time passes. When I can, I'll post some pictures of recent things I've made---a basis for comparison, if you will. Also, Heidi and I hit the jewelry show here in NOLA a few weeks ago pretty hard...we got some really lovely beads. I'll try to get photos of those posted as well. But if I post a photo of a stone spear point instead, don't hold it against me.