Saturday, April 27, 2013

Isla de las Mujeres

One of the many bead supply websites that I haunt is A Grain of Sand. If you sign up for their Bead Hoard Curiosities Club, you get a box full of beading components every month. Several of the items are vintage, all of them are unusually beautiful, and one item in each box is indicated as the design component for that month. Beaders are encouraged to use the designated component in a design and to submit a photo of their design to the Facebook page for AGOS.

In the April box, the design component was this item:
It is about 2" X 2 1/2" and around 1/4" thick. It looks like someone took a skillet full of yellow plastic flowers and heated it up until the petals all melted together. It is quite light weight, so I decided to make it into a necklace focal.
I glued the contest component to a piece of batik fabric. This is a stellar suggestion from my bead embroidery teacher, Melaine Doerman; by using a printed piece of fabric for bead embroidery, you avoid potential blank canvas paralysis.
Here is the yellow component glued to a batik square backed with Lacey's Stiff Stuff, a flexible material that is often used for bead embroidery:
You can also see the beginnings of the beaded bezel that goes all the way around the yellow contest component. In the past I have only bezeled round focals, so creating a beaded border around a square(ish) piece was the biggest challenge. To help with the design I used bugle beads around the perimeter of the yellow piece.
Once the yellow component was completely encased in bugle and seed beads, I cut it away from the square of fabric and started to embellish it. My go-to design inspiration is always sea life, so I imagined that the yellow contest component was a piece of jewelry lost in a shipwreck. I added branching coral fringe and irregular bead embroidery around the edges
of the piece to make it look like it had been underwater for a while.

Once all of the decorative touches had been added, I stitched the top of the focal piece to a copper-colored chain that was also included in the April box of beading goodies. I then stitched more embellishment on the chain itself, as if the lovely, invasive sea life had begun to twine around the edges of the yellow piece and on to the chain itself.

Here is a photo of the finished piece on a jewelry display form:
I used turquoise and  moss colored seed beads in addition to lemon yellow seed beads and copper bugle beads for this piece.
Here is a side view which shows some of the surrounding bezel detail:
The first place that I ever snorkeled was off Isla de las Mujeres in the Yucatan peninsula, so this piece is named after that island. I am going to enter the online contest on A Grain of Sand's Facebook page this afternoon. Wish me luck.
May 7, 2013 ETA: I did not win. If you go to the Facebook page (linked above) you will see the entry that did win. On to the next challenge...I entered Isla de las Mujeres in a contest at my local bead shop. It is an in-person contest so my indifferent photography skills will not count against me. (Note to Smallest of All: lessons in lighting would be a nice Mother's Day gift!) Results for this new contest are not announced until July...I will update again and let you know if the judges liked my entry.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

It's a wrap... more ways than one.

I have been studying yoga on and off since my college years. For the past five years, I have been studying with Tiny Dancer, a teacher who leads an interesting and varied practice at our synagogue.

Tiny Dancer knows that I make jewelry. After class one day she asked me to take a look at a bracelet that she had owned for several years but could not wear. The bracelet was made up of five strands of turquoise and silver beads with a clasp closure and it was far too big for Tiny Dancer's wrist. At first we talked about shortening the existing bracelet, which would have been possible but not much of a challenge. After looking at the lovely turquoise beads, I asked Tiny Dancer if I could take the bracelet apart and use the beads to make something entirely new. She gave me permission to cut apart the strands to make a wrap bracelet.

(Sorry to say that I did not think to take a photo of the 'before' stage. My only excuse is that I was just itching to unbuild that thing as soon as I got home.)

I have made wrap bracelets in the past using small round beads stitched to leather or cotton cord. Tiny Dancer's original bracelet had both small and very large beads. I wire-wrapped the larger beads and added them along the sides of the wrap bracelet. It almost gives a charm bracelet look to the piece:

I now need to measure the bracelet on Tiny Dancer's wrist to make sure that it fits perfectly, so the fuzzies and the needle are still visible in this work-in-progress view. The silvertone rectangle near the left is a button that acts as the closure. The beaded cord wraps several times around the wrist and there is a loop in the cord at the other end. The bead slips through the loop.
After the bracelet was at the stage shown above, I used some of the remaining beads to make a pair of earrings:
I played around with including a length of the brown leather cord in the earring design but even small pieces were too dramatic to play nicely with the other elements.
And there were even enough remaining beads to make a necklace:
The center of the necklace is make of knotted leather cord that is woven through wire eye pins. It somewhat mimics the feel of the wrap bracelet without being matchy-matchy.
I need to cut the chain and add a closure once I see how long Tiny Dancer wants to wear the necklace. I saved the clasp from the bracelet, which means that I was able to re-use everything from the original, unwearable item except the wire that strung it all together.
We will meet for lunch next week Tiny Dancer and I, so that she can see what her old bracelet has become. Here's hoping she likes all three pieces. Since she is expecting only a wrap bracelet the additional earrings and necklace should be a nice surprise.
The other thing that is a wrap: my day job. After seven years at the same job, I have resigned. Like most things in life this decision involved a complex web of inter-related issues that I won't delve into here. Suffice it to say that I will have a lot more free time for beading and blogging.