Design News and Events

Summer Bead Fest
While less than 20 exhibitors shy of the excellent Pasadena bead show, the 15th annual Summer Bead Fest at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center at Oaks, PA, was an excellent opportunity to attend classes and find high quality merchandise within 40 miles of our home. One of the highlights was selecting several very elegant natural pyrite suns that have been extracted from the coal mines of Sparta, Randolph County, Illinois:

 

Click to see Pyrite Suns

 

It is believed that as these mines are increasingly forced to close, the pyrite suns will become quite rare.

 

I found the Village Silversmith, A Massachusetts based firm selling only at shows in mid Atlantic and northeast states, a very fun and knowledgeable exhibitor from whom to purchase lovely and unusual gems. The pyrite suns will be a feature in a limited edition of these necklace designs for this fall season. The sparkling deep gold color will work well with the Pantone colors of the various beads that were introduced by Jesse James Beads and purchased by me at this show to enhance my bead inventory.
Metallic Clay
What a great experience we had at the Pasadena Bead Show!  This annual event is a great way to see what materials and projects are popular on the West Coast, stock up on hard-to-find elements, and learn some new techniques.

One demonstration in particular caught my eye - a unique textured bangle using art clay.  With great anticipation I signed my daughter and me up for the following morning.

Precious metal clay was developed in the early 1990's in Japan as an alternative medium to traditional fine jewelry techniques.  It uses an organic binding agent to make tiny particles of silver malleable and easily shapeable. 

We first prepared and rolled our clay into a flat project area.  We used oiled tools and work surface to keep the clay from sticking.

Next, we trimmed the piece to our desired shape.  Again, we used oiled tools to carefully cut and shape the bangle.

Once we were happy with the shape, we chose textures.  In addition to adding tactile interest, once fired, texture adds sparkle to catch the eye.  While any textured surface will work, for expediency we used some pre-made plastic sheets with raised patterns.

Our patterns applied, we were ready to fire.  Firing sets the piece, burning off the organic binder and leaving behind a detailed metal charm, ready for inclusion in one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces.

I enjoyed the class and learned a lot.  It was interesting to work with such an innovative product.
Mother of Pearl

Nacre ( NAY-kər), also known as mother of pearl, is an organic-inorganic composite material produced by some molluscs as an inner shell layer; it is also what makes up the outer coating of pearls. It is strong, resilient, and iridescent.

 


Mother of Pearl used in jewelry pieces can be natural, bleached or dyed. In this photo we have a sample of Natural Mother of Pearl (left) and a Black Lip Shell (right) which also has Mother of Pearl inner shell layers.


 

In the late 1900’s the sturdiness and beauty of Mother of Pearl was used to make beautiful buttons for shirts, dresses, coats and baby clothes. While visiting St. Augustine, FL we toured the Constillo de San Marcos where I found it most interesting that the fort was built of coquina, a type of shell stone indigenous to the area and quarried from nearby Anastasia Island. It is quite impressive that these walls still remain in the fort and throughout the city. St. Augustine, the first city in the United States, is celebrating their 450th Anniversary this year. If you have a chance to visit it is well worth the trip!


Agate
Look through your favorite heirloom jewelry pieces in your collection and I'll bet that if one of them contains an interesting, eye-catching stone, it's an agate.

Unlike pearls, which build up over time as layers coating a piece of sand or other small particle, Agates form their outside layer first and grow inwards, their silica often growing within the porous areas of other softer types of rock, or even wood, over millions of years.

Depending on the composition of the agate's silica, many different colors, patterns, and highlights occur.  

Whether tumbled, faceted, shaped, or erosion-smoothed, the fun and delight in making agate jewelry comes from finding and showcasing the unique layers and inclusions in the stones.

One of my favorite kinds of agate to work with are Geodes and Geode slabs.  Take a hammer (gently!) to a plain-looking  round geode and you will split open an amazing crystal miracle.  Carefully sliced pieces of these geodes make fascinating druzies - a focal point for necklaces and earrings.

I purchased my first agate slab on a trip to Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. I was amazed at the patterns and colors. I learned later that agate can be dyed. Earth tone colors are usually natural stones. Vibrant spectrum colors have been dyed.
Crystals

I have always enjoyed working with crystals as part of my jewelry creating. Although using the highest quality beads are the mainstay of color for fashion accompaniment, when included in a jewelry piece with a sensitive eye towards trimming or garnishing, crystals can provide a very significant focal point, as well as a bit of “sparkle”.

 

It is very interesting to note crystals are formed over millions of years. As molten rock very deep in the earth cools slowly, crystals are formed such as diamonds (pure carbon) and quartz (pure silicon). Additional crystals that are formed this way include emeralds and rubies. Rocks or geodes also hold crystals when water evaporates inside. These smaller crystals can be cut or sliced into slabs and polished to produce beautiful focal pieces.


The tiny crystal areas also called druse can be cut into one-of-a kind focal pieces as well. Note natural druse can be natural color combinations of whites, tans and black, and colors as amethyst, the golden hue of citrine druse and even a beautiful pink as in the cobaltian calcite. Druse can also be coated to produce other colors. The proportions and colors are obviously a very important consideration as the jewelry piece is created. So go ahead and add a little “bling” to your jewelry collection!

Chain Mail
While at the bead show in Pasadena, I had a chance to try my hand at a new type of jewelry style:  Chain Mail.

Forget burly fellows in armor!  While the basic principle is the same, this jewelry style has a timeless grace to it that would be worthy of any formal occasion.

I first attended a make-and-take chainmail earring class that demonstrated some beginner links.  The results were truly beautiful.  By combining jump rings linked in careful combination, I created a silver cascade that fell gracefully to an eye-catching crystal drop.

I was so enchanted with the style, my daughter and I signed up for the bracelet class the next afternoon. The intricate patterns woven by combining sets of linked rings (mobius) to each other was mesmerizing and though quite time-consuming, the finished product was beautiful.

For the most part, we used heavier gauge small jump rings in various sizes.  If you don't make your own, you can purchase them from any jewelry supply vendor.  Several of the patterns we've learned so far use alternating metals to distinguish subtle textures throughout the piece, such as silver with gold accents.

It was so fascinating to learn this new technique and meet new jewelry friends in the class.  We had a great deal of fun getting inspired for future jewelry creations.
New Findings
On our recent trip to the West Coast, our daughter, Sherry and I visited beads shops in the LA and Monterey Bay areas.

We wasted no time taking in the many new and exciting  beads, focals and components.

One big "find" was a unique bail made especially for semi-precious donuts. Our super charged "creative juices" provided several jewelry creating sessions.

I returned home with many new ideas and pieces soon to be shown in our creations page on this website.
A Warning About Nickel

Perhaps you've seen some of the articles about nickel jewelry in the news recently.  The latest articles have concerned a fitness bracelet which has been giving its wearers a distinctive red rash.  This is caused by an allergic reaction to the nickel.  It is so common an allergy that it is illegal in Europe to sell jewelry that contains nickel.

In bracelets, earrings, and necklaces, the allure of the low cost of the pieces draws buyers.  While initially quite brilliant, the finish fades quickly and can leave either a red rash or even black or green discoloration on the skin with even minimal wear.

Many years ago, I was on vacation and purchased some jewelry as a souvenir.  Though lovely, it contained nickel and left a rash. Happily, I had many more memories from that trip that far outweighed one evening's discomfort, but I do remember the lesson I learned.

I kept this in mind when I began creating jewelry pieces and made certain to source my components very carefully.  For standard pieces, I use high-quality silver plated components.  For signature pieces, I use sterling silver (92.5% pure).  On commission, I will also do fine silver (99.9%) pieces. I am careful to source these components from United States companies that guarantee the quality and metallurgic content. 

If you're further interested in standards for silver, Wikipedia has a great article here.  It's well worth the read and certainly helpful when travelling (and indulging) abroad.
Artisan Beads
 

So often as I look around our home, I’m warmed by the personal touches that distinctive items add to our décor.  A hand-blown glass ornament that catches the light in our bay window, the hand-made pottery bowl that holds our fruit, so many pieces that have the significance of loving gifts given and well-received as well as being beautifully unique.

 

It’s this hand-crafted care and attention to detail that gives artisan beads an air of being so eye-catching and unique.  When I am fortunate enough to find such components, I truly enjoy the challenge and the chance to showcase them in the pieces they deserve.

 

There are many kinds of artisan beads, hand-turned wood, ceramic, lampwork glass, even found pieces from other jewelry items can be repurposed in clay or other media to create one-of-a-kind bead masterworks.

 

While some of these beads become focal pieces, others can be “rolled” and “cut” to create a whole set of colorful components.  The possibilities are as limitless as imagination.

 

They are certainly much more difficult to find than standard and semi-precious components.  I am delighted when I am able to source these unique hand-crafted treasures.  I love being able to “frame” and share these beautiful pieces of art.

Focus on Focal Beads

I enjoy making many different styles of jewelry, from elaborate graduated sets to simple delicate strands. 


Sometimes, as I’m sourcing supplies, one particular stone or bead will really draw my eye.  With that one component in mind, elements seem to fall effortlessly into place, resulting in some of my favorite pieces.  That single focal object winds up being the stunning centerpiece for an entire outfit.


Focal beads can be made of almost any material.  Natural stones, cut gems, handmade beads, even cast or sculpted pieces can each make a breathtaking statement. 


While I enjoy making jewelry to match my outfits, sometimes it’s fun to build an outfit around that one remarkable piece.

The Beauty of Rose Gold

Of the components that have recently caught my eye, none are more stunning to me than Rose Gold. 

Known by other names (Russian Gold, Red Gold, Pink Gold, Crown Gold, etc.), it’s created by introducing copper as an alloy to the gold metal.  The quality of the gold remains the same, however, these subtle inclusions of copper and sometimes silver at forging give the gold a beautiful range of hues.


The highest karat (22 karat) version is sometimes called “Crown Gold.”  14 karat rose gold is often used in creating higher end musical instruments, such as flutes.


I’m drawn to this uniquely beautiful color as a distinctive showcase for creating truly memorable focal pieces.  There’s something so eye-catching about it that garners me many a curious question, and I’m always happy to share my enthusiasm and knowledge.


There are many factors that make it a rarer-than-most medium. The two that most compel me are the rarity of the rose gold components themselves and the uniquely tricky task of finding beads that match the unique patina of each set of components. It can be difficult to find just the right combination of findings and accents, but when I do, the effect is stunning.


As spring approaches and I prepare for upcoming shows, I’ve found myself using this metal a bit more as a foundation for my creations and look forward to sharing those distinct pieces with my clients and their newest collections.

In addition to the boutiques where my jewelry can be viewed and purchased, I often enjoy the energy and inspiration I get from attending various events throughout the year.  The people are wonderful and it's a great chance to meet and share ideas and techniques with other artists.   I would love to meet you at one of the events listed below!
Spring Events

While I prepare for several spring shows and events, I'll also be enjoying a trip to the west coast.  I'm looking forward to seeing what new findings and elements are available as well as what inspiration I can glean from the area.