Saturday, February 22, 2014

Finally Back

When I started this blog I intended to post every couple days.  That worked for, oh, about 4 days.  Then I got busy with classes at Michael's, getting ready to go to a Women's Conference, helping prepare for a Daytona 500 party, and doing research for a truck project, basically with life.  At one point I wrote an entry on my tablet; got it done and it disappeared; poof, like it never existed.  Not quite friends with that tablet yet. :)  OK enough excuses and sad tech stories; back to jewelry focus.

The last class I taught was wire crochet.  When I first thought about crocheting with wire I thought it would be awkward and unattractive; but Michael's was introducing classes so I needed to give it a shot.  For my first attempt I used a small steel hook (probably a 12 or 13).  I used colored wire, added seed beads for some sparkle; and created what was suppose to turn into a rainbow necklace.  Well it didn't take long to realize this was not going to be easy.  Working wire with a small hook was difficult at best.  I still have 6 pieces (almost a full rainbow) about 1 x 1.5 inches each.  I have yet to decide how to assemble them and there will be no more to go with them.  I obviously needed to take another run at this technique.  This time I used a larger hook, made looser stitches, enjoyed the process a lot more, and the cuff bracelet that resulted has received many complements.  For a beginner class we made multiple strands of single crochet embellished with beads, braided them together, and added finishing touches; very simple.  Add a pendant for extra impact, make a shorter version for a matching bracelet; you can have a complete set in a couple hours.  Below are some examples.  See what you can get when you think outside the box, or for me; when someone pushes you out of the box.

My first bracelet
Student Valentine Bracelet
Add a focal pendant
Multi-color wire and beads
Simple silver and purple

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Wire: Stringing, Dead Soft, Half Round, Square, ......

When I started designing jewelry I was mostly in trial and error mode.  Wire was one of the elements that proved to be a challenge for me.  Pretty important element as it is central to most pieces.  It may be what you string beads on; it may be a design element; it is what links and charms are made of; need a custom finding just find the right gauge and color wire and you're good; make focal pieces, entire pieces (bracelets, rings, etc.), crochet it (add some beads for sparkle).  You get the idea.  My first mistake; I strung clay beads on wire meant for wire wrap; bend the necklace enough times and it would break (those pieces got disassembled and remade).  I started doing research that I should have done before I made those pieces.  If you are new to jewelry construction I hope this will be helpful.  If you just haven't worked with wire much I hope it will inspire you to give it a try.

A few basics:

Bead stringing wire is a multi-stranded coated wire.  The higher the number of strands the more flexible the wire; and the more expensive.  It ranges from 7 to 39 strands.  If you don't need the flexibility or if you are just starting out, I suggest going for the less expensive option.  I usually use 19 strand, middle ground for flexibility and cost, just my opinion.  This wire comes in a variety of colors so you can spread beads out on the piece you are making and the wire itself becomes part of the color pallet.

Dead soft wire is great for a wide variety of wire wrap, weaving, and coiling projects.  Because it is so flexible and easy to work with it is great for beginner level projects but will grow with you as you advance to more complex pieces.

Half round, Square, Medium temper and other wires are used to wrap large stones, make rings and bracelets, and more.  I would say these would usually be used in intermediate to advanced pieces.

Memory wire is a great wire for easy bracelets and necklaces.  They can be large and dramatic or light and sparkly.  Again, imagination is they only limit.

Below are a few examples of the variety wire offers and this is just he beginning.
Dead Soft Wire Wrapped Stone

Hammered Wire
Wire Crochet
Memory Wire
Bead Stringing Wire

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Flowers of Clay

Still exploring the potential of polymer clay and after discussing the idea with a friend who arranges flowers for gifts and events; I decided to give flowers a try.  I so do not have a green thumb; yet there are a few plants that seem to be able to survive me.  Unfortunately those plants don't flower.  Philodendron, for example, is a very hardy plant, but all green.  I figured there must be other people like me who would like some pops of color that wouldn't wilt.  Thus was born my flower garden.  Take some imagination; add colorful clay, wire, tape, glaze, and flower stakes and you have a single pop of color, or a bouquet that will stay beautiful.  The cost is about what you would pay for fresh flowers that will be gone in a week or so.  They are fun, easy to customize, and affordable, even if quantity is needed for an event.  These pictures are of my first attempt at flowers; and while I like the look, I will be trying some using a technique that will add more color and shine, possibly some beads for sparkle. New and improved flowers, coming soon.
Fun accent piece

A closer look

Monday, February 10, 2014

Where it Began

I started considering what I should write about and decided to start where my interest in creating jewelry began.  I attended an Ordination Ceremony.  There was a booth set up in the lobby for a non-profit line of jewelry, "Jewels for God".  All the profit from sales of this jewelry supports ministry to women rescued from human trafficking and other horrible situations.  I was immediately drawn to the cause and decided to sign up as a sales rep.  While my heart was in the right place I wasn't very successful selling the line.  As I was considering my options I learned about polymer clay.  No kiln needed, just a toaster oven.  Inexpensive materials and designs limited only by your imagination add up to amazing possibilities.  I decided I would develop a line of fun, affordable jewelry and accessories.  Of course, there has been a lot of trial and error; but I'm also glad to say a lot of growth.  So here we go; it all started when I complimented a necklace and learned my friend made it herself, out of polymer clay.  I started reading about working with polymer clay, what did I need, what should I be careful about, which brands got the best reviews.  A toaster oven, a pasta machine, a couple books with design and technique tips, and I was off and running.  Pendants, earrings, hair clips, book marks, picture frames, and more.  Some things worked well and some went in my "lesson's learned anything for $1" sale basket.  Whatever sold, 20% was and will continue to be donated to "Jewels for God". Attached pictures are some of my early pieces. More to come in the next few days as I not only learned more clay techniques but also began incorporating beads, wire, and more. 
Eagle and Stars Bookmarks
5" x 7" Clay Covered Wood Frame

Abstract Flower Set
Flowers made with Shape Cutters
Holiday Set
Hair Clip to match necklace/earring set

Clay & Wood Bead Set

Sunday, February 9, 2014

First Attempt at Blogging

Today marks the first time I'm giving this a try.  I began learning to make jewelry about 2 years ago.  I started with polymer clay, which is still one of my favorites as it is so versatile; what you can do is limited only by your imagination.  I didn't plan to expand at first but as I started to develop the clay pieces I made I needed to learn more about mounting, stringing, and displaying them.  As a result, I've added other beads, learned wire wrap, chain maille, and am working on more complex wire work.

Several months ago I began teaching jewelry at Michael's in Chesapeake, VA.  That gave me connections with other instructors all over the country and as a result and invitation to join a "bead swap" group.  I am thankful for all of these events as they push me to get better at what I do, and expand in both jewelry creation and now to start a blog.  I am looking forward to growing in the field of jewelry and sharing my experience through the blog process.  I will appreciate feedback and input from the community as I am stepping out of my comfort zone.  As jewelry was a completely new area for me 2 years ago; blogging is new now.

One of my favorite verses is:

Psalm 127:1 Unless the Lord builds a house,
    the work of the builders is wasted.
Unless the Lord protects a city,
    guarding it with sentries will do no good.

I will give this my best effort; but only with God's help and blessing will it be a success.

So this is to be continued; I hope you will be part of the journey.