Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Little Leather Bracelet Belts

I've been playing with leather a lot lately, and kinda loving it. My friend Melinda got me hooked on leather. I don't know whether to thank her or curse her because all I want to do is include leather in all my projects now! I love the softness, and worn in comfort that leather adds to my work.

The last time we got together she brought a sampling of her treasures (on wheels because it is too much to carry). She had so much variety that I went to town picking out findings and clasps that work beautifully with leather like these belt buckle clasps; aren't they the coolest? 

I can't believe how easy it is to include these findings. I just put a little dab of strong glue on the leather ends and insert into the metal ends. I used e6000 ... which I use on pretty much everything. Seriously. 


In the first bracelet I simply cut a strip of leather to match the width. And in the second bracelet you see I used both a wide strip of leather and two thin cords on either side. The variation in the leather colors brings out the copper tones.  Both of these are fun to stack, mix and match!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Rocks :: Beads :: Leather

Rocks, beads and leather. What more could I ask for? I love the simplicity of this pattern, and the comfort of this one around the wrist. It is soft and fits like my old, worn in baseball mitt from childhood. 

I found a great video that walked through how to create this stacked, beaded bracelet that was very simple to follow. There is also this tutorial if you want to try larger size beads. They are both just an easy, soft weave that feels great on. 

My inspiration started with a rock that Christine gifted me. A beautiful, flat skipping stone that she drilled. I knew that I wanted to use it as a bracelet toggle, but I waited to find a pattern both fitting in style and substance. You can see it is not a petite rock, but it does make for a wonderful earthy, boho feel. I love this look.

I got to work with the tutorial using some very soft suede that slipped right through the drill holes and provided the edging to my bracelet. And then I just grabbed some cording and started stringing some size 6 seed beads. It reminds me of the field corn my mom always loved to put out with the Thanksgiving decorations. Something that reminded her of her childhood on a Nebraska farm.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Beadweaving :: Simple Peyote

I picked up quite a few sets of seed beads at Beadfest this year (you can see the loot to the right here); including a few strings of wonderful earthy beige and a hank of Picasso seed beads. The Picasso beads have been all the rage lately, as I hear everyone talking about them. But they are quite a bit more expensive for some reason. Frankly they look like all those beads I spill on my bead table and don't get around to sorting. I do really love the mixture of color, and I might just need to do my own mix!


This simple peyote pattern actually started with the beautiful center carnelian piece. I have a few of them sitting on my bead table that I've definitely been hoarding for some time. My friend Christine gifted them to me, and I love them. I think Carnelian ranks right up there as one of my absolutely favorite stones. I absolutely love it's rich, honey tone. I could not resist showcasing the photos of the bracelet draped over a rock. Anyone who knows Christine knows that she'd approve of this maneuver.

I wanted to do something different. Unique. But wasn't exactly sure what, and it took me quite a while to come up with the pattern. Sometimes the simple patterns take the longest to figure out as the understated can be quite dramatic. It makes me think of my hairdresser. I know .. I'm down a rabbit hole. But stay with me for a minute, and I'll explain. So I always thought ... how hard can it be? I have stick straight hair ... all you need to do is cut it in a straight line. But I've heard people cut my hair over the years and mumble under their breathe because every snip shows up. And in fact I have seen people struggle to cut my hair as it is harder to have it look like a clean cut, or not have a few pieces hang down if I part my hair slightly off from center (as I typically do).  I guess simple patterns are the same. Any small stitch out of place, or slightly different color of a bead, or even slightly irregular shape or size ... shows up. Can anyone see the spirit beads in this piece?

I ended up with a 2 row chevron pattern of Picasso beads alternating with the earthy beige. I did a drop stitch at the ends creating a triangle so it would roll around the center piece. I kinda love the softness of that look. I'm going to have to do that again, for sure. I also grabbed a set of Melinda Orr's leather snap ends (man I love these) and punched a couple of holes to bead right into. I had to laugh as I explained to my bead buddy Linda Younkman that I had left the string exposed when I attached the beading to the leather. I think she asked me twice, maybe it was 3 times if I really left it exposed. LOL, yes. I like the rustic, boho (aka 'didn't tuck in my shirt) look.

The piece fits like an old worn in baseball mitt. Truly. I was afraid the carnelian hoop would feel uncomfortable, but the beading around it gives it some swing in the pattern. I still have 2 more of these carnelian pieces to play with. But this one; it must return to Christine. I channeled her through the entire pattern. In the end is was earthy, had a touch of native flare, and just a bit of Colorado. 

And another one of my beady friends, Linda, was off doing her thing with peyote. Check out these stunning variations where she simply played with the size of the bead. She also included a tutorial for those of you that would like to try your hand at a simple, and classic peyote beadweaving stitch. Sometimes the simple can create the dramatic. You definitely rock Linda! You can see this article (include my simple peyote bracelet) in this month's issue of Bead Chat Magazine.



Friday, November 7, 2014

Freeform :: Leather

This year at Bead Fest I was hanging out with Melinda Orr and Linda Younkman and as we were going through some of Melinda's rather large stash (she needs wheels to carry it around by the way) ... she pulled out some leather. 

What she had done was to take a piece of leather, cut strips within it, and then harden the leather with water so that it stood as a cuff (you can see it on my bead table below left). How cool is that? I couldn't get over how great this was and my mind instantly was designing what I'd do with this piece. Melinda is always game to see what people can make with her leather, and said to take it home and play. Well you don't have to tell me that more than once! 

I started to work in some freeform peyote --- weaving it in and around the strips of leather. These are 15s (aka ... REALLY small for freeform) but who says I'm not up for a challenge. Even if I realized part way through I was nuts to do it in this size. I just didn't want it to take away from the leather.

I decided to stay with just one color, which I think gives this just a bit more drama ... and doesn't distract as much from the leather itself. I added a great stone in the middle that I beaded around. Which, I have no idea what it is? Anyone who knows - please do tell!

This felt like it had a whole Medieval thing going on, so I decided the button should look like an old shield. It does feel like a cuff when you wear it as it holds it's shape. What fun to play and bead with friends, and to try new things!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Dia de los Muertos :: Day of the Dead

Halloween has always been a fun holiday in our house, one that the girls enjoy celebrating. Not just the treats (but let's be honest ... those do matter) ... but really they enjoy the chance to dress up and have a little fun scaring each other.

My youngest (aka, the bead girl) was very interested this year in the Mexican tradition of Dia de los Muetos, or Day of the Dead. A tradition of remembering those loved ones who have died. It is a custom that dates back hundreds of years to the Aztecs. 

When we were in Mexico earlier in the year she helped me paint a sugar skull (with Luis), which my husband has since claimed as his own souvenir from the trip? Not sure how that happened exactly, but it did. Anne and I had a lot of fun just scouring the local village for other variations and colors of skulls and paintings. 

So for Halloween 'trick or treating' this year (which might be her last time? .... so sad for me) she decide to dress in the Mexican custom. She got very in to it with face paint and skeleton attire. Check out her finger-less skeleton gloves and socks! She set her alarm early this morning so she could get up and apply all that face paint before heading off to school today. So glad I got pics before she left tonight as the rain set in and the paint is now running down her face. No worries ... we're all sorting out the candy and claiming a few. Sugar comma is imminent.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Oktoberfest :: Fall Earring Series

A few weeks back I was inspired by the stash of artisan beads piling up on my bead table. Yes, I admit it. I am a hoarder; at least when it comes to beads. But I decided that I needed to put these beautiful beads to work. 

I started with my embarrassing large stash of Michelle McCarthy's ceramic discs from her shop Firefly Design Studio in both circles and squares. I started mixing and matching them up with a number of other artists.

Those artists include Jana Bližňáková from HappyFishThings. I love her rustic ceramic charms and focals she been making. They are earthy and bohemian, and perfectly my style! I also used a few of her polymer charms like the owls; how sweet are those?

I also had to include one of my favorite artists Lesley Watt from THEAElements. I never get tired of her brass charms she makes. And once I posted these sweet ammonite ones over on Facebook Lesley was getting requests to make more. Can you blame people for asking for more? 

Another one of my favorites is Sue Kennedy from Sue Beads. Oh how I love her lampwork beads, and I picked up several of her lampwork headpins. So fun and whimsical! 

I also made a pair from Genea that I'm in love with. Look at the rich colors of these beads! I couldn't get myself to list this pair I made with Genea's beads and have been wearing them for about 2 weeks straight.

You'll also see some Marsha Neal ceramics in there, which I love. She always uses greens and rich reds, which are my favorite colors to work with. I have a few more on the bead table I'm working on now from Marsha. I just need to finish up the next batch and get those posted. I made roughly 15 pair in the first batch, and another 10 in this current batch. So look for all of them over on my Facebook or my Etsy

For more Fall inspired designs check out Rita's Oktoberfest blog hop going on today over on Jewel School Friends. Looks like everyone just about is joining in today to celebrate with Rita and her annual hop to celebrate her favorite season.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Upcycling :: Fall Inpsired

A few months back, Hope Smitherman who works with ZnetShows ask a few of us if we'd be interested in doing some Fall designs for the new Fall issue of Creative Spark. The themes were 'inspired by Fall' or using 'upcycled materials' in our pieces.

Well, I knew immediately that the upcycled one was for me. I had in mind that I was going to use an old key that I found up in our camp in the Adirondacks. I was thinking about leather and grey pearls for a dress-up Boho look. 

Now I know a few of you (Christine in particular) who are going to laugh at this next bit of information. I saw the grey pearls and thought perfect! .... um yeah, and when they arrived they were not just large, they were huge. Well at least based on what was in my mind. Yep, didn't pay any attention to the diameter size ... because that is what I do. 

So plan B was in order. I did actually like these grey pearls, but they needed a more substantial idea that made them the star. But now I needed something else upcycled for my theme. I remembered that I had some old basting tape I scavenged from one of the drawers in my mom's desk sewing machine. I liked this option as it was more rustic looking than pulling out the expected silk ribbon. I created a chain between the pearls and hammered out a piece of silver for the focal. I was finally happy with this one.

On to the next. One of the items I got from Znet Shows was some leaf chain. I really love this stuff. It is fun, a bit whimsical and very Fall. Nice combo in my opinion. I had been holding on to some acorns for about a year. The Bead Girl (aka Anne, my apprentice) started collecting these last Fall. Every few days she'd come home and pull out a few from her pocket. We stuffed them in can as she collected them, and forgot about them. I pulled them out last August to find a fine film of mildew on them .... oh gees, these are real and I should have dried them. Note to self. So we buffed off the mold and laid them out for about 2 weeks. Worked perfectly. I made a little copper loop and a coil bead cap. Then glued it right on top of the acorn. And now I had acorn beads! My kids tease me all the time saying that I think everything is a bead. Well maybe not eeeeverything, but lots of things.

This post is feeling like a list of true confessions today. So one of the other things I ordered from Znet Shows was some jasper polished stones. And guess what happened? Yep the opposite of the pearls. When they arrived they were much smaller than I thought and I could not get my cording through them. Seriously, I need to pay attention to the bead sizes. I had in mind that I was going to use them with these pretty copper filigree charms. I decided to just make some simple earrings using a pretty champaign quartz briolettes. So I have some jasper stones I need to get to work on and think of a more delicate design with my stones. I am hopeless when it comes to bead sizes.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Mexico :: Pottery

One of the favorite things my daughters and I like to do is paint. We will paint pretty much anything. So what's one of the activities while on vacation? Why paint pottery, poolside of course.

We hung out with Luis (pictured right) who would patiently wait for people to finish their painted pieces. There were distracted parents who dropped their kids off, spoiled rambunctious young kids, bored teenagers, and a few helicopter moms who would finish their kid's pottery for them. You see it all when you travel. 

Honestly, it really didn't matter much if you could paint .... Luis would 'fix' it. I saw several pieces that the paint was just globbed on, and he'd change up the colors, put in black lines around the images and add in accents. Basically you'd come back to pick up your piece and you'd be stunned by how amazing your Luis' work was!

The pieces you see here were painted by us Luis. I did the two dishes with lids, and Kate did the bowl with the waves. Anne did a series of flowered candle holders, which we discovered later are simply for decoration since the finishing coat burns and turns black when you try to really use them. Opps! Good thing we were standing right there and blew the candle out in a hurry!

I did some online research to see if I could identify what style of pottery this represents. What I believe is that this is influenced by Talavera style which uses bright colors, thick graphics and dominant boarders around the patterns. Talavera was introduced to Mexico by Spanish guild artisans during the Colonial period (1650-1810). In Spain, the style is call 'Majolica.' What makes this method different from others is that the base pottery is already fired clay which is covered with an opaque glaze base. Then the pottery is covered with an opaque glaze and decorated with metallic oxide glaze colors, which are fired together. This blends the colors that overlap and form other colors. The result is brightly colored, glossy surface that maintains and enhances the lines and colors. While our pieces did not follow this process exactly, you can definitely see the influences of the style. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mexico :: Beading Inspiration

One of my favorite things I did when we were down in Mexico was to spend some time walking through the local vendors to see what kind of beading and jewelry I could find. 

What I found was an astonishing amount of handmade beadwork pretty much everywhere I looked. And the colors were vibrant! 

There is a culture of beadwork throughout Mexico, and the more prominent work comes from the Huichol. The Huichol are indigenous people of Mexico who live in the Sierra Madre Occidental range. They refer to themselves as Wixaritari, or "the people" in their native language. The bags shown here (made entirely from beads) are a common item that the Huichol make, but they are known for their bead sculpture. One group even beaded an entire car. I cannot even image how it takes to bead a car?

Huichol art dates back millennia and represents their spiritual connection to their gods and ancestors. Their art is full of symbols that have been encode into their stories. They use vibrant colored beads, yarn and wood in their imaginative work with each piece carrying heavy symbolism. In Huichol culture, art and religion are inextricable; each piece is personal and holds the deep spiritual beliefs of its creator.

Two primary figures are the Jicuri (the peyote plant) which is considered the plant of life and promotes harmonious relations with the gods. And the other is the serpent, which is highly revered for its protection of peyote by eating the pests that would harm the harvest.

At the core of their religion is a pilgrimage of 600 miles (round trip) to re-enter the sacred land of the Wirikuta desert. During their trip they perform a series of rituals and ceremonies to transform themselves into deities. When properly performed the peyote will be found, and 'slain' with a bow and arrow. Everyone is given a slice of the peyote to have their own personal visions. This moment of sharing the peyote is fulfilling their quest: to travel to paradise and transform themselves into deities and commune with the gods.

Since we were not near the Sierra Madre range, I can't be sure that what we were looking at was from the Huichol, but they do seem to be a beading superpower in Mexico!

At one shop there were just tables and tables of beaded bracelets. I pulled out a few of them to take individual pictures. I love how they use basic stitches and play on variation, after variation. I got a bit 'click happy' taking pictures of all these pieces to use as inspiration. And so now it is a matter of actually giving them a try.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Bucket List :: Drink from a Coconut

One of the things that my oldest daughter Kate had on her bucket list of things she wanted to do was to drink from a coconut. I think after all those episodes of Survivor, it just seemed like a cool thing to do.

When we were in Mexico last winter; she got her chance. Her sister was right there with her and game to give it a try as well. At our hotel we saw a few people walking around with their very own coconut, and we thought 'oh, I guess you just order one from the bar.' But surprisingly no one seemed to know what we were talking about when we tried that?


But then one of the staff suggested we find a gardener who could whack one down from one of the trees on the property. And so now I had both my girls hunting around the grounds looking for a guy with a machete. Not exactly what a mom wants to hear. But we did find a very nice gardener who was more than willing to help the girls out. They had a bit of trouble trying to drink from the hacked opening, but a straw was a quick solve so they could enjoy their drink with lunch.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Simple Macrame

Last time I got together with my BBF (best bead friend) Christine we did some swapping of beads. A usual activity. She gifted me really cool shell 'nugget' beads that have a bit of a rough cut to them to show off the inside of the shell. I think I remember her saying that they were abalone. Check out the greens in these - so very cool.


I wanted to do something sort of Mystic Seaport inspired and turned to an old technique I learned as a kid: macrame. When I was younger I used to do those macrame pot hangers. I know, you can all just picture me in my striped bell bottoms knotting away on my pot hanger. I do have a few pictures from that time, but they will remain in the old shoe box in the attic.

Ok back to the beads. I figured how hard could it be to do a few basics knots with some fiber? Actually not that hard, except for the fact that it was a bugger to keep that thing still while I was working those knots. 

As a kid, I used to include the big wooden hoop in my macrame and I would slip it under the leg of a piece of furniture. Then I would kneel on it to keep it tight when I did my knotting. 

Today my knees are not that happy doing that maneuver, and my project was not that large (thankfully). I resorted to some tape on my lap desk, which did the trick. It fought me a bit, but not too bad. And I surprised myself by remember how to do the wrap on the ends where you pull the loop back through itself.

I added a cute little anchor charm that works well as a closure through the end loop.

I think the hardest part of this project was getting a decent picture. Can you tell? I tried my usual trick of photographing on a piece of water-color paper as it helps to absorb the reflection of direct sunlight. I also tried it on my burlap bust, and I asked one of my daughters to model it for me. Then I tried it on the slate path outside the house and on the front-door railing. Do you ever have that problem trying to get the right angle? Or getting the depth of the beads to pop in the way you were looking for?

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