Thursday, October 20, 2016

Wire all the Way Around

by Staci Louise Smith

Long necklaces have always been difficult for me.  I find that when I create shorter styles, the composition just flows for me.  However, when you do a long necklace, making it flow together is more difficult.  You have many many more elements that need to work together in order for the composition to look right.  More shapes to balance, more colors to carry's a challenge.

I finally took the dive though and began making some for my mom and I think I figured it out.  I mean, don't get me wrong, I still take them apart and add and take away....on and on.............until they are just right.  But I am no longer intimidated by them.

One thing I have found, that is the saving grace of the long necklace, is wire.  Using a consistent wire all the way around, and using it periodically as a design element itself, is crucial.  It is the uniting element that carries the onlookers eye through the whole piece.

Remember those wire ball bead from last week?  I love adding one of those in.  
I usually start with one piece and make a wire frame for it.  It's a good starting point.

As I lay the beads out, I often don't think they will look right, but as I add wire to them, and wrap it around them, and between them, it all begins to come together.....

and at the end, it looks cohesive.

I do a lot of taking apart and re-doing on the longer pieces.  It takes some fiddling to make sure things lay right, and that they still  have balance of color, shape and size.  I am enjoying the challenge now though!

AND- I am falling in love with wire all over again!  It is not merely a way to connect things, it is a part of the design itself.  

While I was on the wire kick, I took time to make some of my wire components for charm necklaces, because who doesn't love a good charm necklace?

And here are a few of them all filled in.  

Endless possibilities with wire!

So I encourage you to tackle a design you haven't mastered, and to have some fun with wire.  It really can be anything you want.

Check out our tutorial page, and scroll down to wire work.  There are many tutorials and blog posts to try out if you are new to wire, or just want to explore something new.

Maybe you can do some new wire work for our upcoming blog hop on October 25th!  Celebrate Dia De Los Muertos with us by making a piece inspired by the holiday, or sugar skulls!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Dia De Los Muertos inspiration..and latest fall porcelain creations

Carol Dekle-Foss
The colorful shades of autumn and the crisp air have finally arrived here in Northern California. This is my absolute favorite time of year for so many reasons. My creative juices are alight with fire and I find myself losing time playing in the studio.

This creative stirring has been very productive!

For one, I have accepted Karen's Dia De Los Muertos, a celebration of life challenge. Are you participating? We would love for you to join us! For me, this holiday was somewhat of a mystery. I knew the basics, but to help me with what I wanted to make for the challenge, I set out to learn more about this special occasion.

Some very cool facts I found interesting:

The Ofrendas or altars, are built inside and are decorated with many obejects, including the loved one's favorite items, photos, Cempasuchil or Marigold flowers, pan de muertos and sugar skulls. The children's altars are decorated in a special way to include miniature toys, tiny food etc. The Marigolds are also used in many other ways including decorating the graves

They widely display beautiful Papel Picado, or cut paper banners. I love the fact that there are still artisans in Mexico that hand cut these banners. Here's a short video in English on the history the Papel Picado if you're interested.

I think what amazes me most about this beautiful tradition, is they portray the dead as humorous, happy, and fun, and not macabre in any way.  Also that the children are included in the celebration honoring their deceased loved ones. I have a new appreciation for this holiday, and plan to attend a local celebration to learn more. Here is a list of events in the United States as well as a few abroad if you are interested in attending one. How amazing would it be to go to one of these celebrations in Mexico!

  I was so inspired by Sherri's shrinky dinks and hand-drawn shoes that I thought I would try and draw my own sugar skull. I used common motifs and then embellished with a bit of my style. 
These pendants will be included in a shop update tomorrow. 

I think they are adorable! I've saved a few for the challenge, and will probably end up keeping the finished pieces to wear during Dia De Los Muertos.

Here are some new designs coming out of the kiln as well.
 I love the intricate stained glass look of these leaves.

And more leaves.

Another skull design.

Ronnies beads. He nailed the fall colors!

All beads and pendants shown will be included in the shop update that will be happening tomorrow.

We hope you join us for the Dia De Los Muertos challenge! You can find out more details here.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Shrinky Dinks and Shoe Doodles: Adventures in Coloring

by Sherri Stokey

Anyone who knows me will tell you I'm still a child at heart so it should come as no big surprise to learn I'm still a big fan of coloring!  I hadn't picked up crayons for a long time, although I've been tempted by the whole adult coloring book craze.  I have so many projects in my head that I never have time to get them all finished and I couldn't see a real "use" for colored pictures.

And then someone reminded me of Shrinky Dinks.

I went out and bought a brand new pack of colored pencils and downloaded a couple free coloring pages and made this:

Which turned into this once baked:

Squee!!!  How cute is that!!  I'll bet at this point you're wondering what in the heck that photos of shoes is doing at the beginning of this post?  I'm getting there, I swear!  I got bitten by the coloring bug and decided to take it a step further and try doodling on shoes.  

Now you have to understand - I can't draw.  I can look at a picture and sort of mimic a shape, but I really have no talent for drawing and realism and shading are beyond my capabilities.  I embraced that and decided to go for fun and colorful doodles rather than anything that's supposed to look like "art" and came up with these:

How fun are those!?  I'm pretty "chuffed" (as my UK friends would say)!  I took a pair of white canvas shoes:

Cheap white canvas shoes, I might add (and I think that's what allowed me to go crazy without worrying about ruining a "good" pair of shoes):

Then I took a box of permanent markers and got busy.  I started with a skull couple:

I'm not all that happy with the way they turned out.  I think I was a bit hesitant with my drawing so the lines aren't as crisp.  I sketched the outlines lightly in pencil and then went over it with a marker and it was hard to trace the lines exactly.  I also wasn't happy with the decorative details on the faces because the area was so small and the markers (fine line ones) do bleed a bit on the canvas.  It got better when I started just doodling without sketching first like the flower and vines.  

To try to keep the two shoes sort of the same (although I wasn't making a matching pair), I decided I'd better do some on the other shoe and go back and forth so I drew a skull on the other one.  This one is larger so I could get more detail in the decoration and I'm much happier with it.

As you can see, I just kept adding stuff and filling in white spaces.  I did try to add similar elements to keep them cohesive (like the blue flower with a magenta center on both shoes, etc.).

Can you tell I'm a big fan of the Day of the Dead?  I'm pretty excited about the Dia De Los Muertos: A Celebration of Life Challenge by Karen McGovern.  It's easy to play along: create something inspired by Dia De Los Muertos and reveal your designs on October 25, 2016 using the hashtag #lmajdod (full details here.)

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Wire, Wire Everywhere...........

by Staci Louise Smith

I don't know about you, but I go through a lot of wire.  My designs are very free form, and I use wire as a main design element.  So that means, when a piece just isn't laying right, or the composition isn't right yet, I have to take it apart, leaving a wire graveyard in its wake.

So, I have been working on some new pieces for my last show of the season, as well as the Bethlehem House Gallery that my work is in.  (cruise through their site, its the coolest gallery ever! and you can buy the art online as well.  I love being a part of that gallery!  But maybe that is a whole other blog post)

Remember when I was preparing for Bead Dreams at the beginning of the year?  I had made this piece, which was a real runner up for entry.  

And for all the pieces, I had made these polymer horns as part of the necklace.  Well, I wanted to do something else with them all year, and hadn't gotten around to it.  So I finally made some more horns to play with.

However when I began to play with them, I just couldn't find a way to use them that was wearable and that I loved compositionally.

So needless to say, I went through quite a bit of wire.

I finally decided to just use chain and the horns together.  

(I love them, kinda rock star- biological rock

I loved it, but again, still had to figure out how much chain- which chain, getting it to lay right...............I went through a lot of wire, and learned what I will do differently to make the process easier the next time I make a batch of horns.  Anyhow, I ended up with lots of piles like this

(and then some.....................)

I have been trying to keep my desk cleaned up so I can be more effcient (said the  I also, hate to waste so much wire.  I have a recycle bin, but still, its more wire gone that I have to replace.  but once it is all bent up like this, its really hard to re-use.

So I have decided to use the bits and ends on my desk to make wire balls to use in my jewelry.  It takes a little time, but still, I feel better using it in a way that it still makes it into my jewelry.

So I uncoiled these wire ends I had made and then cut off.............

and then wound them into little wire ball beads

I love these wire beads, they add wonderful texture and some negative space into heavy designs.  I am really glad I took the time to do this!  I have a video at the bottom of the blog showing my process.

I also got to use some of my new spiky polymer beads in some designs.  I think over - all this batch with the horn spike shapes and the spiky shell like shapes, and the heavy gauge chain- it really has a rock star feel to it, while still feeling like specimens off a biologists desk.  Rock Star Biology.  

So, I am just going with this look for now, because I love it.

Want to make your own wire ball beads?  There is not real "way" to do it.  But I shot a little video of how I do it if you want to give it a go.


Don't forget, we are having a Day of the Dead design challenge (basically, show off your sugar skull jewelry designs!!)  here and on Facebook on October 25th.  You KNOW I am participating!

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