Saturday, April 30, 2016

Bahamian Flowers

Elder Flower
The Bahamas was in full bloom when we were there last week. Lots of flowering bushes, trees and vines like the colorful leaves of Bougainvillea. 

I think what surprised me most was that I was expecting the Bahamas to be more year-round tropical temperatures. But apparently temps do vary quite a bit and even dip into the 40s (or so our cab driver told us), but we had beautiful 70 degree weather all week.

We had arrived just as so many trees were blooming, one of which is the national flower called the Elder Flower. It looks like clusters of yellow trumpets. The flower has a number of medicinal uses ranging from digestion to high blood pressure or even catnip. I was surprised to learn that honey produced from these flowers can actually be poisonous to humans, and there must be quite a lot of it since the bees were very attracted to it. Perhaps think twice about buying Bahamian Honey!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Working with Leather

I see a lot of tassel necklaces and I've been wanting to design with that in mind. So when I came across a brown leather tassel at a near by bead shop I heard it calling to me.

But I have been trying to use up my stash since I appear to have enough beads already to open my own shop. Shhhhh ... please don't tell my husband I said that. He'll put another ban on my bead shopping!

Ok, so brown. I wanted the beads to be the supporting cast, not over power the tassel as the focal. So I grabbed cream colored carnelian. Yes, those are carnelian. It isn't what you normally think of with its deep orange color, but if you look at the natural stone you'll see that indeed there are parts of it that are a cream color. 

Next I went hunting for brass beads in my stash. I guess I don't have a lot of those, but I did manage to find a set of Asian bar beads. I included small brass beads from India, which were the last of my stash on those. A bit of leather for the back strap and there you have it. A long tassel necklace that will look great with sandals and a flowing top. Who else is ready for summer?

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Caribbean Blue :: Larimar

This year the hubby was determined to plan several escapes from the winter given how brutal winter was last year. And while it was much more mild this year, it has been nice to get some sun early in the season. 

The second trip he planned was the Bahamas, and while I've been here before a few times, they were quick single day excursions from a ship. It is much different to stay locally just off the beach. Our place has its own pool and a quick walk up to shops, restaurants and local beaches. It is the perfect place to simply relax. 

One thing that always strikes me about the Caribbean is the color of the water. It is just so blue. And when I recently saw this stone I just could not resist as it looks like the color of the water and seems to have the pattern of surf in it. The stone is called Larimar. 

A bit of quick research revealed that it is a stone found only in the Caribbean, specifically the Dominican Republic. It was named after the daughter of the man who rediscovered it in 1974, Miguel Mendez. He combined his daughter's name (Larissa) with the Spanish word for sea (mar) to create the name. The Dominican Republic's Ministry of Mining show records that in 1916 Father Miguel Domingo Fuetes Loren asked for permission to mine for a certain blue rock he had discovered, but he was denied. Years later Miguel Mendez, a Peace Corps volunteer, rediscovered the stone walking along a local beach.

The stone is formed from a crystallization of blue pectolite when it is pushed into the 'tubes' or 'chimneys' of a volcano by the hot gases. Today there are networks of mines left behind from crews who have had to excavate deeper and deeper into the old volcanoes.

It really is a striking stone, and I didn't want to over complicate the setting. So I decided to stay with the blue theme and used a thick blue leather cord and set the focal with silver. I kept it short as a simple choker with a magnetic closure in back. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Bead Lessons :: Zig Zag Stitch

This necklace came together in pieces, and it all began with a beading lesson from my friend Christine. Each time we get together we try to share a technique with the other so that we're both learning something new. I do so love these little lessons.

I had seen a stitch over on her blog that I just had to try where she'd used a new variation on zig zag stitch using peanut beads. It creates amazing depth to this beaded chain (click on the link to see the beautiful piece she created). I picked out some metallic colors and got to work. I really just wanted to bead this new stitch to feel the rhythm of the pattern in my hands. I had no idea what I was going to do with it, and tucked it away. 

Once I was back home it sat on the bead table for some time, like so many other stalled projects. But then I pulled out a focal bead that Christine had gifted me from that last trip to Fishkill in the shape of a scarab. I added a semicircle of braided leather to complete the necklace and it all came together. I love the symbolism of the scarab as amulet in Egyptian history. It is said to bring protection to the wearer. I turned the bead into a simple cab to attach to the leather, connected the beaded back strap, and voila. Another Christine-inspired design! 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Bead Shopping

One of my favorite things to do is to meet up with my BBF Christine and go bead shopping. We've done this many times at this point and we're just in a rhythm. 

We'll walk into the large room filled with tables, and tables of beads, rocks, fibers and all things that look like Christmas morning to a beader. 

She'll walk one way, I'll walk the other. Then periodically meet up and compare purchases. It is a perfect rhythm for me. 

Christine is an organized shopper. She likes to case the joint ... making a full circle through all the tables first before making a purchase. She needs to get an inventory of what's there and then decide what to buy based on what she's budgeted for our splurge. She is so disciplined! Yes, yes, I hear you. I could learn a few tricks from her.

But, I have a completely different way to shop. I actually don't shop all that often. My husband does most of the shopping for the household (lucky me). And when we do happen to go shopping together (a rare occasion) I am usually zooming through aisles, picking out things and rarely looking at prices. He on the other hand, will methodically go through the aisles, read each label, comparison shop, check off from a list. And he'll take a look at what I've put into the basket and quietly put things back ... O.M.G. it drives me bananas! It just takes all the fun out of it for me.

My bead shopping isn't much different. I love to stumble across a pendant that I instantly start to design around in my head. But the best part of bead shopping is that my husband NEVER comes with me. Yes, the best part. I can shop in peace. This pendant here is one of those pieces, but the lovely part of it is that Christine seems to know me well. She surprised me with this one (along with a few others) the last time we were at the Bead Expo in Fishkill, NY. Instantly I saw this looking Egyptian and I wanted it to have that Cleopatra-breastplate look to it. I love this pendant, loved creating with it, and love shopping with my BBF.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Hiking Florida :: Rocks for Brains

Windley Key Quarry
Brain Coral (close up on right)
One of the places we hiked in Florida was called Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State ParkThe stone formed during the Pleistocene age (about 100,000 years ago) and consists of scleractinian coral, or brain coral. Windley was one of the tallest reefs, and when the sea level dropped it exposed the reef, killing the coral which is the foundation for Islamorada, one of the many island groupings of the Keys. 

The Beadgirl is partial to coral. She has been creating these sweet coral reef pieces with polymer that include clusters of brain coral along with kelp, starfish and sponges. The detail she includes is so amazing. 

For Mother's Day last year she handed me this hand painted ocean box and inside was my own coral (shown here). So when we discovered this park the Beadgirl was anxious to check it out. We ran around snapping pictures of all the coral patterns in the rock. Windley is one of several quarries where Keystone, or fossilized coral limestone, was cut and extracted for use in building the railway that connected Miami to Key West.

The railway was built in the early 1900s to connect the chain of Key islands; that up to the turn of the century were only accessible by boat. Henry Flagler, who was one of the founders of Standard Oil, was looking to profit from increased trade out of Key West which was the closest deep water port to the Panama Canal. It took him 13 years to build the 128 miles of track down to Key West. Flagler used the stone as land fill in places to secure the rails.  

Today Windley Key is a park with only the quarry walls and rusty machinery left standing. The quarry walls show the many layers of coral along with all the visible inclusions of shells in the stone. When you pick up the rock it is lighter than you might think given the air pockets in the stone formed around the coral. You can actually find the stone everywhere on the island. I picked up one to bring home for Christine, my rock hound friend. It has amazing grooves left from the coral.

We drove the full length of the Keys while we were there. The railway is no longer operational, and in many places the railway bridges are simply crumbling into the Atlantic. The drive itself was a bit surreal. On one side is the Atlantic; the other the Gulf. The road is nearly at sea level and gives you the feeling of driving through the ocean. Odd, but peaceful.

The Atlantic (from the car window) along Key West highway

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Hiking Florida :: Digesting Alligators

Alligator digesting a turtle
We did a lot of hiking while we were down in Florida. Flat hiking that is, as Florida isn't known for its hills. One of the places we explored was the Everglades. The landscape is gorgeous and varied from one area to the next.

Everglades River of Grass
We hiked through marsh lands that looked like a savannah, tree hammocks, dense mangroves to wide open ponds choked with lilies that are home to birds, turtles and alligators. The trails were easy to hike as there was a network of wooden bridges that made it easy to navigate through the marsh.

Close up of grasslands with White Ibis
One of the most interesting things we saw was an alligator up close, on land. We chatted with the park ranger who explained that this guy had been lying there (perfectly still) for 5 days digesting a turtle he ate. She explained that if you looked at his stomach you could see the circle from the turtle's shell and the gap just before his hind legs showed how stretched his stomach was from the turtle. 

The area is considered a tropical wetland, and it serves as a drainage basin for southern Florida. One term I loved (identified by writer Marjory Stoneman Douglas) was "River of Grass." Which is just so true. When you look out over the grassy savannah you realize that it is not solid ground, but a large waterway filled with dense grass. During the wet season this slow-moving river grows to 60 miles wide and 100+ miles long. 

Marjory was a journalist, feminist and environmentalist. When she was younger she spoke out on women's suffrage and civil rights. In to her 70s, she took a central role in protecting the everglades and earned the nickname the Grande Dame of the Everglades. She lived to be 108 and and collected all kinds of awards including a Presidential Medal of Freedom. I would have loved to spend a bit of time with her listening to the tales of her life.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Punxsutawney [Might] Have Predicted An Early Spring

The last few winters have been down right brutal. One snow storm after another, and just when you think it won't snow again .... another storm hits in early April. 

I don't know if our little rodent friend Punxsutawney Phil was right, but I'm sure enjoying the warmer weather and early spring flowers. My crocus are in, and the snow drops are about to bloom. I love both of these not only because they are pretty, but it is the promise of putting those snow shovels away for another year.

My recent trip down to Florida kick-started my drought in beading. And with the flowers showing up in the yard, I was feeling like pulling out the beads even when I returned home to Connecticut. So I ordered a few things on Etsy including some vintage Czech glass buttons with dragonflies. I cut the shank off the back to make a perfect cabochon to bead around. I love the vintage mint green in the one. I think I'm going to put these on a simple chain so I don't over complicate the pattern. Thanks Phil for getting me going again, and fingers crossed we've seen the last of this winter!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sunshine in Winter

Yellow Crowned Night Heron
When you live in New England February can feel like the longest month of the year. We decided to take a break and head down to the Florida Keys, and I tell you the morning we left we just couldn't get out of town fast enough.

My husband had booked a flight for 10am, but of course the airline re-booked us without notice to an earlier flight. That meant getting up and out the door with two teenagers by 5am. Anyone with teenagers knows just how difficult a task that is. The temperature was 3 degrees (fahrenheit, or -16 celsius) with a wind chill that pushed it to roughly 15 below. That meant having to lug heavy winter coats with us to Florida. Seriously? 

It was all well worth it. It rained the first 2 days, and I couldn't have cared less. I was in flip flops and capris and loving every minute. I can't say that I did much else but soak in the sun, walk a bit along the coast and do a little bird watching. It was perfect to just be.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Simple Boho

I like the simplicity of this boho bracelet. A piece for wearing every day with a favorite pair of jeans.

But sometimes the simple ones are the hardest. I struggled with this one at first as the beads were so uncooperative. They kept sliding back to the closure, and as much as I like the little buckle closure it just wasn't what I was going for. Then I realized that I could use a spacer to 'crimp' the beads and contain them to a focal area. Oh and that did it! I sent this piece on its way with my sister for one of her close friends back home. I hope she enjoys it.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Stone Cabochon Series :: #7

This cabochon set is the one where I hit the wall and was completely stumped as to why I just wasn't happy with the first version. 

Sometimes I will be beading along and just not feeling it. The beads don't look right, the color seems off or the way the final piece hangs is just off. That was the case with this one.

The original design I used a copper silk fabric. And while it looked lovely lying on the bead table, the second you put it on it was twisting this way and that. The balance and weight of the stones was just off vs. the delicate silk fabric. 

So I put the piece down to rethink it. And it just sat there for months on the bead table staring at me. I would pick it up and match it to another fabric. Nothing seemed to be working. And so I moved on to other projects as I circle around this one picking it up, and promptly putting it back down again. 

And then it hit me. Why wasn't I using chain? Of course that was what the problem was. I really like how these two stones came together. They are clearly not the same. One is a jadite looking agate (at least I assume it is an agate). The other has almost a Feldspar look to it with all the flecks. I have absolutely no idea what either stone is, but my friend Christine would tell me that when in doubt it probably is an agate!

The other change I made which might not be as obvious is that I pulled off the lower level of beads around the bezel. I realized once I switched out the neck strap that it was too 'bead heavy' for the cabochon. It just didn't need that extra layer. I find myself trying to simplify my beading these days. Not sure why, but just want a 'less is more' look.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Stone Cabochon Series :: #6

I have a few more of the double stone cabochons to post that I was creating last Fall. The others are here: #1, #2, #3, #4 and #5

This one is a pair of pink shaded stones that Melinda Orr gifted to me. They are not the same stone, but look beautiful together. 

Clearly I took the pictures of the Bead Girl this last Fall when the temperatures were still well in the high 80s. With all the snow we've had lately it seems so long ago! 

With this grey weather it is nearly impossible to get a decent photo of any of my work. So I am happily going back through all the projects from the Fall that I didn't get a chance to post yet. There are actually quite a few!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

It's a Snow Globe World

It is that time of year when we dream of warm weather while staring out the window at a snow globe world.

It's snowing through much of the Eastern US including my little corner of New England. 

As pretty as the world looks covered in a blanket of white, I dread what comes next. Shoveling out.

I'm not sure exactly why but I've been quiet lately. I haven't been blogging, but I've tried to make it over to people's blogs. I think I'm in a reflective mood this year. Looking back to assess and forward to adjust. But sometimes life just happens, and all you can do is try to find the calm in the storm. I have been looking for that dead spot.

I know I haven't posted many new projects lately. That is because there isn't much jewelry making going on at my house except for this set I made for a friend who loves beach glass. She apparently is obsessed with it, and particularly multi-colored. I don't do blaring colors very well and decided to go with a classic soft green with pearl accent. I found some patterned leather that gives it a bit of flare. I hope she enjoys the set.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Dinner with a View

Karlovy Vary at dusk
Rooftop Seating at Karel IV
I have but a few pictures left to share from our trip this past summer. This set is one of my favorites. It was one of our last nights of the trip and we spent it having dinner at Karel IV, a restaurant with a view over the town of Karlovy Vary

This amazing little place was nestled in the rooftops just a few steps from our hotel. It had absolutely stunning views of the old architecture surrounding us.

I caught a picture of an older couple sitting off to our right who were seemingly within arms reach of the onion dome and its shingled roof next door. The closeness of the buildings was something that was just so different for me. You could tell that the layout of this town was old. Built well before you needed all that space for cars in a town center.

Local Band at Karel IV
While the food was amazing, and the views spectacular, my favorite part was the music. A local band was playing that was clearly well known .... well, to the locals. We arrived just as the sun was setting and the restaurant was nearly empty. We enjoyed a drink, listened to the band and watched the sun set. Before long we noticed the place was full and hopping with locals and travelers.

Playing classic Russian songs
Early in their set we heard the riff on the electric keyboard and looked at each other. It sounded familiar, but couldn't quite place it. A few more bars and we were humming along. Yes, it was absolutely familiar. Then when the main melody started we both said at the same time "Oh! I think this is Santana." Oh yes it was. Black Magic Woman sung with a heavy (and I mean heavy) Czech accent. It was awesomeness.

They played for hours with a mix of classic old rock to traditional Eastern European songs to ones I can only assume were classic Russian. The table next to us were clearly a group of Russian ladies who knew all the songs and were singing along quite freely. They were very intent on getting a picture with the violinist who was in the middle of one of these Russian songs. The ladies kept pulling at him to get closer. Poor guy. He was trying to sing, play the violin and appease these ladies. Bending closer, and closer ... as they tugged at him to bend down into the picture. He didn't miss a beat! 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Amulet Bag :: Blending Ancient Egypt and Native American

I started this bag about 2 weeks ago and was hoping to finish it before the last ATTS hop hosted by Christine and Therese. I didn't quite make it, but I did finish. So here it is, my amulet bag.

The bag came together in pieces. I started with the top band of peyote in a 'basket weave' which I attached to a piece of suede. The suede was beaded or 'zipped' along the side with a ladder stitch and a bit of picot that I stitched into the bag to ensure it was secure.

Then came piles of fringe, can you ever have enough fringe? Its a bit unruly, and makes you want to constantly comb your fingers through it to straighten it out. The last piece I added was the scarab created by Lesley Watt from metal clay. I bezeled this months ago and it sat on the bead table awaiting just the right project. 

An amulet is an object that protects its owner from harm, which is different from a talisman that is believed to bring luck as well as protection. Amulets can come in the form of gems, statues, coins or even a plant or animal. The word origin is Latin (amulÄ“tum) and prevalent in ancient Rome. But the tradition stems from Egyptians who believed that stones were associated with gods, and that wearing these stones, or amulets, gave powers from the gods. By the time of Egypt's Middle Kingdom the scarab shape had become a powerful protection amulet particularly for kings, who wore stone carvings of the beetles for protection both in life and the afterlife.

While the Romans tended to wear stones as amulets, the Native American tribes tended to create small bags to carry sacred objects, medicine or tobacco. The bags were often painted, beaded or quilled with characteristic tribal designs. The Shaman (or medicine man) would carry 'medicine' in these bags to treat sickness or disease. But they were also used for luck, protection and strength in battle. Some medicine bags included paint (with powerful magic) which gave the warrior the belief that he was invincible in battle.

My amulet bag is a cross between these two cultures. It has the symbolism of ancient Egypt with Lesley's lovely scarab, but created as a bag to carry the amulet protection. And a bonus that it comes with lots of fringe that is so depictive of Native American bags.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

CC7A :: Blue Skies

We are wrapping to a close on our second year of our CC7A group hop, the Creative Continuum of Seven Artists created and hosted by Alicia of All The Pretty Things blog. Each one of us have co-hosted a month by sending around a photo to the team to inspire our creative thinking. 

This final month is hosted by Christine. She sent around such a cool inspiration as we head into winter. A view of an open blue sky that can consume the landscape once the trees are bare. It makes me think of seeing the migrating birds heading South for the winter. It is a dramatic sight in an empty sky.

That is why my piece for this month is of a bird in flight. That is exactly where my mind went when I saw Christine's photo. I think we all struggle with finding that bit of breezy blue sky inspiration once the days turn short, and often the skies are grey and heavy with snow. But on those rare days when the sky just opens up with a burst of blue on a cold day it makes you want to breathe in deeply and enjoy the short bit of warmth on your face. Thanks for this photo Christine. It is that warm blanket on a cold winter's day.

I also decided to add a pair of earrings. They match the necklace, but only with the agate rondelle accent beads I have included in both. The skeleton of the leaves reminds me of what is left behind after they fall. That delicate, decaying lace stretching between the skeleton of the leaf that was. Ok, one last turn about the rest of the blogs for our group hop: Christine, Therese, Sally, Alicia and Monique. Be sure to check them all out!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

ATTS 8 :: What's Your Bag?

I think ATTS (or A Time To Stitch) is my favorite blog hop series. My friends Christine and Therese have managed to create a hop that is constantly reinventing itself and getting us all to try a new technique. And I love to try new things. 

This time the challenge was to try making a bag using beadwork. Now that could be an amulet bag, or a beaded bag or whatever else you decide you want to try your hand at. That is the best part of this hop --- it has pretty easy going rules. I was going to try an amulet bag, but instead I decided to make myself a jewelry travel pouch. 

What's that? Well the one I had, I'd had for years. It is still in very good shape, in fact almost new. It has all these little zipper pockets in it to stuff your various earrings or bracelets in. Then you roll it up and you pull a cord around it to secure it. (Here is a similar one) So why did I need a new one? Well, the one I had was from my mom, and when my sister came to visit I sent her home with it. I made quite a few pieces of jewelry for her to take home for herself and several of her friends. I tucked them all into the jewelry travel pouch from mom. She lives so far away from the family and has so few things from our mom that whenever she mentions that she likes something from mom I tuck it in her suitcase.

I actually ended up shipping her some green glass bowls that my grandmother used to use for desserts but my sister said "oh those are awesome champagne glasses!" Huh, yea I guess they are. But I had been using them for pudding or jello for the girls. She had a much better idea of what they were. So I shipped those to her. I would bet that my grandmother spent less than $5 for the set of 8, and I paid nearly $130 to ship them to her (New Zealand is not cheep to ship to!). 

Ok, officially down a rabbit hole. Back to the topic here. My travel pouch. I love this rusty copper color. I cut a swatch of raw silk and assembled it by beading the sides together with peyote. I used some suede for reinforcement of the magnet closure and added a bit of beaded design around the top of the closure. Pretty simple actually, but will be just the perfect thing to keep my bits of jewelry in when I'm traveling.

Don't forget to check out all the other bloggers for the hop: Christine, Therese, Bobbie, Amy, Alicia, Dagi, Jasvanti, Karin S, Debbie, Liz E, Lori F, Maryanne, PaulaSamantha, Jenny, Ana, Motidana, Becky

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Selling on Amazon Handmade

Like many of my fellow handmade artisan friends, I've opened a shop over on Amazon's new Handmade Marketplace. There are a growing number of us discouraged by Etsy's new policy that redefine what they consider to be handmade. They have let a number of low-cost manufacturers join the ranks of Etsy from countries where labor is cheep and 'hand assembled' can bend the rules of what the rest of us would consider artisan made. Etsy says that it is strict about who they allow to use "outside manufacturing help to support their increasing volume needs."  

Sadly, many of us artisans selling on Etsy are feeling this shift directly in traffic to our shops and reduction in our sales. The pages of Etsy are now flooded with page after page of low-cost options from overseas. There was an interesting article on this from the Huffington Post from the buyer's perspective. I, like so many of my fellow artisans on Etsy, are seeing massive drops in traffic to our shops. I have regularly seen conversations about whether people should consider closing their Etsy shops for good. Sigh. 

What it has done is encourage many of us to try other options including joining Amazon's new Handmade Marketplace this holiday season. I am starting out slowly to see how it goes over on Amazon. So I have only a few pieces listed in my shop. This necklace I am showing on the post today is listed and uses beads from Sue Kennedy. These are some of my favorite artisan beads from Sue as I love the soft sand color and overlay of silver. I've used a combination of pyrite and hematite beads to accent the design.

As with quite a few of my posts lately, the bead girl is modeling this piece. We've been having lots of fun together this Fall, and she is helping me by modeling in several of my pictures so I can photograph them and get them listed in my shops. If you have the time to stop by my new Amazon shop, please do click over!

AntiquityTravelers on Etsy