Monday, September 29, 2014

World Maker Faire : The Bust Craftacular

Last weekend, Colin and I hopped the train to New York City to spend the day at World Maker Faire.  Included in the show was the Bust Craftacular.
The Bust Craftacular is a small indie craft fair featuring an eclectic array of handmade and vintage wares.  This year it was located right inside the main gates so I wandered over to it immediately in search of fun and funky jewelry.
The first vendor to catch my eye was HAWKHOUSE by Jessica Kramer.  Jessica creates electroformed jewelry incorporating raw crystals, gems and fossils.  I loved her work so much that at the end of the day I returned to purchase a chunky Herkimer diamond ring.
Circuit Breaker Labs
Circuit Breaker Labs was my next stop.  Artist Amanda Preske, creates wearable pieces out of e-waste.  She uses discarded circuit boards, recycled solar cells and resin to make necklaces, bracelets, keychains etc...  She happened to have a small selection of expandable badge holders/lanyards for sale.  Colin thought they were perfect for his badge at work so he happily made a crafty purchase.
Zoa Chimerum
One of the most unusual finds at the show was Zoa Chimerum.  These funky pieces are created by Ian Henderson who uses materials repurposed from the electronics industry.  They are rubber over aluminum cores and you just want to reach out and touch them.  I did....a lot.
With Roots
The most whimsical find at the show was With Roots.  With Roots jewelry features tiny terrariums with real plants living inside.  These things were adorable!  With Roots is a Brooklyn-based business run by artist Sharon Goldberg. I am definitely putting one of these on my Christmas wish list!
Eisentraut Jewelry

Another Brooklyn-based business, Eisentraut Jewelry features an insignia line of pendants and rings. Included in your purchase are two sticks of sealing wax perfect for those that enjoy sending handwritten letters.  Eisentraut also has two other jewelry lines based on nature and pigeons.

Overall, it was a fun day out filled with crafty goodness and geeky fun!  Maker Faire hosts shows all over the world.  Check their website to see if there is one in your area.  You never know what kind of inspiration you will come home with!

Diana P.
Suburban Girl Studio LLC

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Guest Blogger Anastasija K: The Enigmatic Moai of Mysterious Easter Island

Today we have guest blogger Anastasija Kristala-Urbanski discussing the heads of Easter Island and how they inspire her work.


I have been always curious about those strange statues on the little Polynesian island in the Southeastern Pacific Ocean. I did not know much about Easter Island before and did not expect that sometime soon the culture and history of it would become one of my biggest fascinations and one of the main inspirations for my handmade designs.

As history suggests, Easter Island (Polynesian: Rapa Nui) was settled by  a very small group of Polynesian people, who were looking for a place to  settle because their home island was possibly swallowed by the ocean. These first islanders found a paradise on Easter Island - nature was rich and thriving, there were a lot of plants, animals and also there were about 16 million trees on the island! People were all set for a great life in their new home. But one of the versions suggests that over time vigorous farming and over exploiting of the natural resources lead to a disaster - there were way too many people who used the resources for farming, and soon plants, trees and animals were almost gone.

But despite all the environmental troubles, Rapa Nui islanders managed to build 887 giant monolithic human figures, called Moai, which were carved out of solid rock. You definitely know them as giant heads sticking out of the ground in Easter Island.

Archaeologists suggest that Moai are symbols of authority and power, they believe that monolithic statues were a representation of the ancient Polynesian ancestors.

Moai are known as “Easter Island heads” but in reality they do have bodies. Many people are not aware of that because the early photographs of statues have documented only Moai  heads only, which were sticking out of the ground with their bodies buried till shoulders. Statues do not have clearly visible legs, except for only one kneeling Moai. These statues come in various forms and shapes but they have few features in common - they all have over-large heads, strong jaws, heavy brows, elongated noses and thin pouty lips. All these features bring proud and enigmatic expression on the faces of these mysterious monoliths.

Simplistic, but amazing, design of Moai inspired me to incorporate “Easter Island heads” into my own designs. The story behind my inspiration is a bit silly, but unusual to me - three nights in a row I had the same dream of me standing somewhere on Easter Island during a starry night and staring at Moai silhouettes. By the time I saw this dream for the the third time, I knew that I need to do something to preserve the memory about the dream. I came up  with tribal style Moai head beads and I think they turned out pretty cute. Also, travel to Rapa Nui Easter Island is now on my to-do list!

-Anastasija K

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Beads Of Courage

I recently wrote about 7000 Bracelets and Ears to You charities, and today I'm writing about Beads of Courage! 
 Bumpy beads made by Susan for a specific request.
From their web site, Beads of Courage is "...a resilience-based intervention designed to support and strengthen children and families coping with serious illness. Through the program children tell their story using colorful beads as meaningful symbols of courage that commemorate milestones they have achieved along their unique treatment path."  

"Program beads" are commercially produced beads due to the volume of beads needed.  They are tied to the color chart children receive when they first join.  The color chart is tied to specific treatment events in a child's journey.  "Act of Courage" beads are beads made by glass artists that represent milestones in a child's treatment journey.  Here are some guidelines about donating beads:

What is an Act of Courage Bead?Act of Courage Beads can take almost any form that you would like to make-it's an opportunity for you to let your imagination go! The 3/32" mandrel is preferred but other sizes are also usable.

Special Requirements for Act of Courage Beads: Please have nice 'puckers' on the ends of the beads, sharp edges on the bead holes cut fingers and can not be sent out. Overly frilly bits sticking out may break off and leave sharp edges on the surface, be sure that raised dots have solid connections (no undercuts) and that surface decorations are robust enough to take some knocking about.

We ask that you refrain from using reduction frit or glasses that give a metallic sheen on the surface due to heavy metal issues with these materials. We can't send metallic reduction surface beads to the kids.

Anneal your beads properly in a kiln to ensure they don't crack. Cracked beads have to go in the waste basket.

Please make sure that the bead release is cleaned out. Beads with the release still inside take more time for our volunteer staff to clean and this tremendously slows down turnaround time to the hospitals.

When you send your beads please fill out the Bead Donation Form, it helps us to expedite sending you a receipt and certificate for your donation.

Polymer Clay Beads are used in many of our programs including Creative Courage Journal, Beads of Courage Program for Siblings, Arts-in-Medicine Workshops and as a Member's Choice bead in the Beads of Courage Program.

Special Requirements for Polymer Clay Beads: Any size or shape is acceptable. The kids love bright colors! Our preferred hole size is 3/32" with no sharp corners, edges, or protrusions that would easily break off. Please remember that they beads are worn and handled by children and should be sturdy enough to stand up to wear and tear.

Other Manufactured Beads are used in many of our fundraising activities and workshops. We welcome your donation of miscellaneous beads, they all find a perfect home to further the mission of Beads of Courage, Inc.

Bead Delivery to Hospitals: None of our member hospitals are set up for direct donation. All beads distributed in our programs are our responsibility, we need to see every Act of Courage bead before it goes out.

How do Donate Beads

Print and fill out this Bead Donation Form and send with your beads.

Mail to:
Beads of Courage, Inc.
Attn: Bead Donations
3230 N. Dodge Blvd. Suite J
Tucson, AZ 85716

Robert Simmons, PhD, our Director of Bead Donations is available to answer your questions. His email is 

AJE's own Jennifer Stout-Cameron holds a Beads of Courage Charm Swap/Auction every year.  Participants are asked to make charms to swap, related to a specific theme, and one to auction on eBay.  All proceeds are directly donated to Beads of Courage.  This year our theme is "Soar". While the function is quite fun, it's also very worthwhile - last year, $1500 was donated to Beads of Courage.  Most people donate more than one charm to be auctioned.  While this year's signups are closed, you should look for our auction on eBay on November 14th! And please consider joining next year, it's lots of fun!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Autumn Girl

I am an autumn girl through and through. My birthday is even on the first day of autumn! I love autumn colors best of all, and my hair, eye and skin coloring are such that autumn colors are most flattering on me. What could be better? Designing jewelry with autumn colors, of course!  
 Cinnamon Spice Collection
Clockwise: Classic Bead, Classic Elements, Humble Beads

If you are in the throes of autumn designing, I have some inspiration boards for you. I gathered up some of of my favorite autumn focals and paired them with beads, chains, textiles and leather. Links to the shops are provided in the caption area beneath each picture. 
Branch With A Squirrel Collection
Clockwise:  Suburban Girl Studio, Green Girl Studios, Classic Elements, Glass Addictions
Flaming Leaf Collection
Clockwise: Thea Elements, Shipwreck Beads, Marsha Neal Studio, Shipwreck Beads

  Oak Leaf  Collection
Clockwise:  Humble Beads, Suburban Girl Studio, White Clover Kiln, Kristi Bowman Design
Leaf Impression Collection
Clockwise: Slate Studios, Starry Road Studio, Shipwreck Beads, Stinky Dog Beads
Just putting these collections together has really motivated me to spend some quality time with my autumn beads! I hope they have the same effect on you!  

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Finding My Mixed Media Mojo...

So it's three weeks since I arrived home from my holiday in the USA and my first (yes I will be back) visit to Bead Fest and I'm delighted to say that once I got over my jet lag, I found myself raring to get in the studio and do something creative. It's not unusual of course to feel refreshed after a holiday but this one was just a bit special.

For me Bead Fest itself was a huge inspiration and not just because of the beads. My AJE team mates were so generous in the way they welcomed and hosted me and what with so many hugely talented and creative bead makers and designers coming together in one place I felt an amazing energy and buzz about the whole thing which certainly followed me home.

It was also great to talk to people attending workshops and to see how excited they were about the new skills they'd picked  up and I completely understand that as I  was lucky enough to take a mixed media workshop with our own Jenny Davies-Reazor. Jenny's class gave us a start on developing the skills to combine polymer clay, metal and ceramic cabochons as shown in these pieces of hers...

Mixed media amulets by Jenny Davies-Reazor
Metal working was one of my first jewellery making passions but I've never really felt the urge to get into polymer clay until I saw how well they worked together in this layered approach. This is the piece I made in the workshop and though not perfect I was pretty pleased with it...

Cabochon by Diana Ptaszynski

Needless to say as soon as I got home I ordered myself some supplies and set to work at having a go on my own and this was my first piece using a ceramic cabochon my Marsha Neal...

The process uses simple cold connections such as tab settings and staples to combine the elements into a sturdy focal piece. I know Jenny is hoping to teach similar classes at events next year so if you get the opportunity to attend one I would thoroughly recommend it.

This was a pretty large piece so I haven't quite decided how to use it yet but my second piece has already been made in to a necklace called 'From Darkness Comes Light'. I used one of Jenny's Celestial face cabochons with a sleepy expression and made a sun ray tab setting, Set against the dark blue of the sun stone beads and the tint of the polymer it evokes for me the dawning of a new day.

Well by then I was well and truly hooked and just had to make another one, this time using a pretty butterfly cabochon (again by Jenny) in warm rich tones. I haven't had a chance to make this one up yet but it's sitting on my work bench with a selection of possible beads for when I do.

Taking Jenny's workshop has had an added benefit in that it's also made me think about other ways of using cold connections and different mediums in my designs. This pendant combines a lampwork cabochon by Caroline Dewison with copper and a setting made from a vintaj brass flower blank connected with rivets.

And this one is again copper with a vintaj blank but I've added extra elements with a leather flower and enameled leaf from Gardanne Beads.

Ceramic cabochon by Caroline Dewison leather flower by H M Creative supplies

I have lots of ideas popping in my brain to take mixed media further so I hope my mojo decides to stay awhile. But what about you - have you taken any inspiring workshops or courses and if not, what's inspired you to try something new lately...? We'd love to hear.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Book Review - Creative Designs Using Shaped Beads

Today I am so happy to bring you a review of Anna Elizabeth Draeger's book....

Jennifer is a regular reviewer for Kalmbach Publishing and she asked me if I would review this one because well she does not play with seed beads.  I was more than happy to do it because I am a huge fan of all the new shaped beads that are coming out.

Anna covers so many of the shaped beads in this book from cubes to gumdrops.

I really loved putting this bead together!

I was trilled to be able to play with the rizo beads I had in my stash to create the tiny little beads in this bracelet featuring one of Rebekah's oh so sweet sleepy critters.

Did you see I also played with waxed linen?  What a fun fiber to play with.

All of Anna's instructions are easy peasy to follow and the illustrations make it that much better.  With all the projects in this book she has really sparked my creativity in incorporating her designs as well as taking some of her ideas to the next level.  I do wish I could personally thank her.

Oh yes and I need to share with you one of my favorite designs.

In her book she also shows alternative designs using similar shapes.  The one in the book featured tila beads (which I started with but that will have to wait for a later post) or you could use Czechmate tile beads instead.

If you are starting out playing with shaped beads I do highly recommend this book as one you should have as a jumping off point.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Enamelings Tips: Using Rubber Stamps!

If you've ever walked into a Michael's or a Hobby Lobby, chances are that at one time or another, you walked out with one of these:

Believe it or not, it's possible to use rubber stamps and a simple embossing pad (watermark pads work too!) to create patterns on your enameled pieces. Simply load up your stamp with embossing ink, and press firmly onto a previously enameled metal component.

Then sift a very large quantity of a contrasting color onto the component - really load it up.

Firmly tap off the excess (hold the piece by the edges so you don't smudge) and load it up again to fill in any spots you may have missed. Then place your components on trivets and torch fire until glossy.

The piece on the right just came off the fire - it will cool to match the color on the left.
It really is that simple! Don't use stamps with very fine lines, which don't hold the enamel grains too well, but otherwise there are really no limitations.

Components ready to be made into earrings!
(Thanks to my awesome students from today's enameling class for being patient while I prepped for this blog post - extra special thanks to student Letty Wilde for taking the "action" shots while I did my demonstration.)

So pull out that stash of rubber stamps left over from your scrapbooking days and go to town! And let me see what you create!

Until next time -