Saturday, October 31, 2009

All dressed up and...

Idyllwild has a way of drawing dog-lovers from all over. Even the nicest restaurants provide doggy bowls for food and water (out on the decks), and nobody criticizes their fashion sense. Take these two poochies, for example. Don't they make the cutest couple! All dressed up... and nowhere to go?
Actually, they were waiting for Idyllwild's annual Halloween parade to get started. Each year on Halloween, hundreds of townspeople (and others from off the hill) dress up as fairies or devils or clowns or whatever, and at about 4 pm they all march from Cafe Aroma to the center of town. Families feel safe trick-or-treating in the local stores and galleries, and everybody enjoys the live music, games, and entertainment.
It's silly fun in a small town... and that's why we love Idyllwild!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fun in the classroom...

We certainly had fun in the classroom last Saturday at Brea Bead Works! My students made (or started) some very beautiful pieces, and I was particularly pleased to see how creative they were with their own projects once we got going.
Sorry that the photo above is so poor, but I should have known better than to try photographing a subject in front of a window with strong light. The image came out really dark, and I did try lightening it up a bit in Photoshop. Anyway, I think you get the idea: busy, happy students indulging in their passion for jewelry making...
The project we worked on was taken from my new book, Contemporary Copper Jewelry. (It's found on page 62, for those of you who would like to attempt the same jewelry piece at home.) In the book, the project is a fairly large, complex collar made from a heavy-gauge wire frame embellished with large gemstone chips, medium-size glass and gemstone beads, and small spacer beads and headpins.
The design is organic and freeform, but takes about a week to finish! Yeah, it's pretty big.
So I suggested to my students that we tackle a less ambitious design instead. To assist them, I drew some basic design shapes on the eraser board (geometric and organic forms that always succeed in jewelry design) and suggested that we try making either pendants or bracelets instead of a large collar.
Above you see pictured a simple wire frame made from 14ga wire, with a squiggly organic design. I then placed my largest beads on the frame to get an idea as to how I wanted to start embellishing the frame. I took a photo to demonstrate how easy it is to document your work-in-progress and also help to remind yourself of your direction if you should lose your way later on in the process of making a new jewelry piece.
Anyway, I was so pleased to see each participant in class come up with something original! I hear the old cliche all the time, that "there's nothing new under the sun, everything's been done before, yada yada..." and it makes me so mad, because it's not true! You (yes, you) can make something unique, something original, your own art. Yes, you can. I do it all the time, and so do my students.
This bracelet (pictured above) is Martha's work-in-progress. She decided to use yellow brass wire because she likes the yellow color, which goes so well with her chosen gemstone beads. She made a wire frame for the bracelet and then started embellishing it with finer-gauge wire and beads... asking me how to fit the bracelet later, I told her to try it on her wrist to see how it looks so far. I think she's nearly finished with her embellishment, and ready to bend the heavy-gauge wire into a bracelet form that terminates in two big spirals.
Here's my own finished pendant with agate chips, pearls, labradorite beads, decorative headpins, and a few small crystal beads. I used sterling silver because it's my favorite wire to work with, but the same design could be worked out in copper wire to save money.
I'll be teaching again at BBW on Nov. 21: a brand-NEW necklace called the Grateful Heart. You can find more information and a supply list by clicking here. To enroll in the workshop, call BBW at 714-671-9976.
This necklace is also a featured project in my brand-new (really brand-new!) 200-page book called Wire Art Jewelry. I hope to release this title by the end of this week or the beginning of next! I'm really excited about it, because there are so many great projects that students have been asking me to provide for them. For more info, click here.
I hope to see you in a workshop sometime before the end of 2009. As the holidays approach, I focus on my favorite of the year: Thanksgiving. We've been through a very rough year, and yet I believe that we all have much to be grateful for. I also believe that we have much to look forward to in the near future, including lots of opportunities to express ourselves creatively. What a gift!
Happy wrapping,

Friday, October 23, 2009

Preparing for class tomorrow at Brea Bead Works

Today is all about paperwork and preparation for teaching a new workshop at Brea Bead Works in Brea, California tomorrow.
I'm teaching the Autumn Dance necklace workshop, and really looking forward to it. I think I'll also bring my bracelet mandrel so that students who are interested can use the techniques we learn to make a big bangle bracelet instead of a necklace, if they so desire. It should be fun!
We still have openings in this class, so if you'd like to join us, you'd be welcome to do so. For a supply list, click here.
To contact Brea Bead Works, call 715-671-9976.
Happy Wrapping,

Monday, October 19, 2009

Yowza--Free Beads!

Wow, what a gift! I had to blog about it.
Recently I received an incredible gift of beads from a student of mine, Laura Bittner of Antelope Beads. While teaching a workshop series at the Bead Weasel in Midland, Michigan last August (to read about it, visit my previous post), I was fortunate to meet Laura and her family. They have a wonderful family business selling beads and components at bead shows across the US as well as through their Web site.
During class one day, Laura said to me: "I'm going to send you some of my beads, I really want you to try them." She was as good as her word! Above you can see a selection of Tagua Nut beads in delicious colors that Laura thought I might like (yes, love them!) but no photo can do them justice. They are brightly colored, polished and very lightweight (important for jewelry). Thank you, Laura!
In the same package, I received these gorgeous Kazuri Beads in some of my favorite colors. Kazuri are African clay beads: handmade, painted, glazed and fired by people in Kenya who make a fair living (read the full story here) by selling their creations through the Fair Trade Act. I strongly support purchasing Kazuri beads for your jewelry creations because they are not only beautiful and durable little works of art, but they also do much to support people who might not otherwise have any employment.
Laura also sent me some Metalcraft beads by DeZine (pictured above), which are handmade brass and copper components crafted in a small village in Africa. The selection you see here gives you an idea of how beautiful they are. I love them for ethnic-style jewelry! Can't wait to design my first necklace with some of these components.
Knowing that the sale of these items provides employment for women in Africa (20 percent of them are disabled) makes me feel very good about making jewelry. It's nice to know that you can help others simply by creating your art, and incorporating the art of others into your own creations.
Finally, on the same day (believe it or not) that I received so many free beads from Laura, I also received a package of resin beads in brand-new shapes from my friend Judy Tomsky at Natural Touch Beads.
I've been making jewelry with Judy's incredibly beautiful eye-candy beads for years now, and she has frequently sent me packets of free samples to try out as she obtains them in new sizes, shapes and colors. She sent me too many to photograph, so I just chose a few of the beads in some brand-new shapes to show here. If you haven't been to Judy's Web site recently, you must visit right away. Click here.
Thank you, Judy and Laura, for your kindness and generosity! It was a real treat to find such beautiful gifts in my mailbox, and I really appreciate it. I look forward to making some new creative jewelry with your beads.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Lovin' those Wubbers...

I forgot to mention in my previous post that Patti Bullard, inventor of the Wubbers brand jewelry pliers, very generously gave me a full set of my very favorite pliers as a parting gift! How could I forget her generosity... perhaps I was just overwhelmed. I'm not used to receiving gifts from my hostess when I teach for a guild or a bead store, so it was quite a surprise for me. Pictured above you see the full set of tools in the "Classic" size: (from left) bent chain-nose pliers, round-nose pliers, and flat-nose pliers, followed by a nice little 6-inch ruler, regular chain-nose pliers and two more flat-nose pliers.
Why so many flat-nose pliers? Because Patti decided to widen our design choices by inventing tools with three different widths (no other manufacturer does this, to my knowledge). Pictured above you see a close-up of the flat-nose pliers in (from left) narrow, medium, and extra-wide widths.
My personal favorite is the very tiny pair on the far left, which I like to use whenever I'm working with fine-gauge wire or when I must bend a little tiny bit of wire, just right. Until you've actually tried this tool for yourself, you won't understand why I'm so crazy about it!
I also love these tools because the handles are easy to hold, with a foam grip that's easy on the hands. Less stress, no pain, all gain! I love these tools.
Patti, if you happen to read my blog, thank you so much for my new Wubbers!!!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Adventures in Wubberland

Last weekend I had the great pleasure of teaching for Patti Bullard of Wired Up Beads in the Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas. As you can see, the ladies pictured in class were having a pretty good time with their hammers! I must say, some of the nicest and funniest women I've ever met.
Everywhere I go, I find that teaching women how to wield their hammers has a cathartic effect... it is somehow so satisfying to grasp a good tool firmly in hand and smack it down on a piece of metal! We had plenty of opportunity to do that when I taught my Embellished Copper Washer Bracelet class on Friday, followed by the Etruscan Spiral Pendant workshop on Saturday. Pictured above, you see the ladies from Sunday's class, the Ethnic Coin Necklace.
Here's part of the necklace that Patti made, using disks in copper, brass and silver. I like to hammer out old pennies to make my charms for this necklace, but you can also purchase metal disks in various sizes from Rio Grande or other sources, and use them instead of coins. I believe you can purchase these disks in copper and silver as well as gold (if you can afford gold these days!), which widens your design options.
While we were putting together our necklaces on Sunday, we discussed other design options such as using our coins to make cool gypsy-style bracelets. I love teaching workshops that provide instruction in lots of wire-working techniques so that students come away with not only new knowledge and skills, but also plenty of creative ideas for designing their own jewelry creations.
I was very impressed with the ladies in Dallas. Everybody got along so well, worked very hard on their jewelry pieces, and laughed... a lot! There's much to be said for that.
If you can't make it to one of my workshops, you might like to get a copy of my Ethnic Style Jewelry DVD which includes four bracelets demonstrated in step-by-step detail, plus the two necklaces we made on Saturday and Sunday. It's three and a half hours long, and retails for just $24.95. To order, click here.
Until next time, happy wrapping!