Thursday, December 31, 2015


As another year draws to a close we would like to thank all of our friends and followers for joining us on our journey over the past year and wish you all a very Happy New Year wherever you may be. May 2016 be filled with health and happiness not to mention a very large dose of creativity!

Don't forget you can get those creative juices flowing again with our two January challenges. The 'Rebirth of the Sun' winter solstice reveal is on Sunday 10th January so there's still plenty of time and then the 'Buried Treasure' (use your stash) challenge reveals on Sunday 31st January. We're looking forward so seeing what the new year brings with your designs.

Enjoy your celebrations!

The Art Jewelry Elements Team

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

January challenge: Buried Treasure

Buried Treasure aka "Use your stash!"

Dig into the treasure you have been hoarding... 

We all have one. Call it a treasure, or a bead stash. Call it loot or inventory. It most likely does NOT look like this: 

Keeping your beads safe? Paranoid? 

It probably looks more like this: 

ONE of my 4 artist bead treasure boxes. Can you spot all the pieces by AJE team mates? LOL
What could be better than starting the year off right with new creative ideas? Using a treasures bead or component! Last year we started what may become a tradition here at Art Jewelry Elements - the "Use your Stash" challenge. (Granted, thats not a very poetic name, but it gets right to the point.)

Here is how it works: 

  • Gather your beads and components by any and all of your favorite artisan bead makers. 
  • Fondle. Think. Plan. Design. Dream. 
  • Create! 
  • Sign up here! Leave a comment with your name AND your blog address. 
  • Blog! Buried treasure reveal date is January 31st 2016. 
**Please — only leave a comment if you can commit to creating a finished piece and blogging about it on the reveal date.
**Pull out those pieces you love from your stash and ENJOY them. What are you saving them for? 
** This Buried Treasure challenge is NOT limited to AJE artists - but we DO love you see what you create with our creations. 

Until then - Happy Holidays! Happy New Year! Happy Creating!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Baby, it's Cold Outside!

Are you inspired by the changing of seasons?  Or do you live in a warmer climate and dream of crystalline winter wonderlands?  I grew up in Alaska, so the winter has always been a time of great memories and inspiration for me.  If we weren't packed into snowclothes and sent outside to play, my mother kept us busy with crafty projects all winter long, so I think of the darker months as a supremely creative time.  It's not just that I love to create during the winter...I am also inspired by the season itself.  Snow and frost, ice and twinkling lights, all of it makes me want to play with my beads and try and capture the look and feel of this season.  Today I'm going to share some of my favorite winter palette inspirations with you!

Ice/Snow/Crystalline Beauty
One of the first things that comes to mind when you think about winter color palettes is ice and snow.  A frozen winter wonderland might not sound too colorful at first, but once you start studying the way light interacts with frozen water, you start seeing all the colors of the subtle shifts and variations.  Glacier blue has always been a great favorite of mine.  And what material emulates ice better than quartz?  
Quartz, vintage glass, Czech lampwotk, Chinese glass, lampwork by Jen Cameron, and Austrian crystal.

Winter Flora/Frozen Trees
I always feel like trees are one of the most obvious reflections of the season...but you don't have to interpret a winter tree into something so literal.  What if you had a primarily dark necklace (bare bark), with intertwining strands of clear aqua (snow shadow) and light topaz (last rays of sun)?  What if you had some dull gray-green beads spaced out with clean white and a carved wood focal?  Do you see where I'm going with this?  Below is my interpretation of birch trees, with their white bark and black striations, nestled with an ice covered berry bush.  
Birch Berries necklace - primarily Czech seed beads and hollow Venetian glass beads.
Chilly Fauna/Cozy Animals
Winter is a hard time on our furred and feathered friends.  I can't help but think of little critters tucked away in burrows and thickets, seeking companionship for warmth.  Some animals are camouflaged during the winter, changing their coat or plumage to winter white.  But sometimes you are treated to a fleeting view of a red cardinal, orange fox, or blue jay on the backdrop of ice and snow.  The balance of camouflage and contrast intrigues me...I hope to try them both out soon on one of these critters... 
Russian porcelain, fox by Heather Powers, Crow with Berry, Barn Owl, Seal and Jay all by Jenny Davies-Reazor, stone polar bear.

Winter Brights
Yes, I know these are holiday images, and you thought you were done with the Christmas decorations...but with all the subtlety of many winter palettes, I feel like it's important to remember that bright colors can work for winter too!  You can mix bright, saturated colors with gold and silver foil for something reminiscent of holiday decor.  Slightly muted colors can feel more "vintage" - I've loved this image of the chartreuse tree paired with black, white, mint and salmon for a few years now.  What an interesting and unexpected combination!  I've seen more pink, purple, and aqua holiday decor and fashions in the last few years seems that I'm not the only one that is tired of those primary "Christmas" reds and greens... 
Vintage glass sew on's and cabs, Venetian and Czech lampwork, artisan dichroic glass, Czech pressed glass.
Midnight Sun
Perhaps my favorite winter palettes take me way back to growing up in Alaska...and the "midnight sun".  This phrase actually refers to the summer, when the sun only sets for a few hours in the middle of the night - yes, black-out curtains are a must.  But what I think of when I hear this phrase is actually the winter, and all of my memories of being outside in what passed for daylight in the winter. The sun is rarely visible as more than an orange glow on the horizon, ice and water become an amazing reflection of the sky, landscapes are silhouetted in black or blue, lights twinkle, and you feel as if you are in a topsy-turvy wonderland.  After all, the clock says it's daytime...but the world outside knows it's still night.  Last winter my friend Sherri and I did a component swap...her micromacrame and my beadwork combined to become a Midnight Sun inspired necklace.  I can't wait to go back and investigate the other iterations of this palette, including the Aurora Borealis.
Polymer clay face by me, micromacrame by Sherri Stokey, beadwork by me.
What inspires you about this time of year?  Is it the color?  Being cozy indoors with a good project and fuzzy companions?  Or something else?!  I would love to know how you beat the trap of winter doldrums and keep creative!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas to all!

Dear Readers, 

We wish you a joyous , peaceful, and creative holiday season! Thank you for traveling with us and reading our blog. We look forward to spending more time with each and every one of you! 


The Art Jewelry Elements Team

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Crafty Cruising

Earlier this month, I went on a 7-night Caribbean cruise with Colin.  I knew I wanted to create during our "at sea" days and evenings after leaving the ports.  Originally, I intended to pack my chainmaille supplies but then I thought the pliers could be an issue. So I packed two other things; an adult coloring book and a bead embroidery project.

Cabochon glued to backing
I selected a glass cabochon by SueBeads that reminded me of a tide pool and glued it to some dyed Stiff Stuff (from Bead My Love).

Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas.  Norwegian Spirit in the background.
I gathered up an assortment of seed beads that were inspired by the colors of Caribbean waters.
Base row of galvanized seed beads
I fell in love with these galvanized seed beads at the bead retreat last month so I came home with an assortment of them, including these fabulous blue ones.
Even-count peyote bezel
And thanks to Jenny and Meg, they taught me peyote bezel at the retreat.  I loved how those little 15's  matched some of the speckles in the cabochon.

Adding visual interest and playing off the bubble-design
Each night, I sat on our balcony and added a little more to the design.  It was a nice way to wind down in the evening.

Final row consisting of size 8 and 6 seeds.
This is where my design ended on the cruise.  I realized I hadn't packed any glue or leather for backing material.

Travel-size coloring book
Once I could no longer work on the bead embroidery, I pulled out my travel-size coloring book.  I picked this up last minute at Barnes & Noble before we left.

Completed pages
These are just a few of the pages I worked on between the cruise and my flights.  These were so much fun, I can see why adult coloring books are trendy right now!

Costa Maya, Mexico
I had a great time on the cruise and it was so nice to have projects to work on.  I don't think I'll ever travel again without a craft to take with me!

Happy Beading!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas is Coming...

Only 4 more sleeps until Christmas, who’s excited? Meeee! I hadn’t been feeling particularly festive until the last couple of days, maybe it’s the warm weather, but now most of the jobs are done, the kids have finished school, and the decorations are up I’m getting in the spirit.

Mid winter has been celebrated for centuries around the world. Early Europeans rejoiced on the darkest days of winter, The worst was behind them and they could look forward to longer days with more sunlight. 

A winter's day

Scandinavians celebrated Yule from December 21st. Large logs would be brought in to the home and the people would feast until the logs burned out, and they believed that each spark from the log represented a calf or piglet born in the coming year.

Yule log

The Roman’s celebrated the festival of Saturnalia which took place from December 17th until a few days after Solstice. 
The feast, in honour of Saturn, their god of agriculture, was a hedonistic celebration with plentiful food and drink where the normal social order was turned on it’s head. Masters became slaves and slaves would command control of the city. The feast of Juvenilia was also observed around the same time, honouring the children of Rome, and the upper classes celebrated the birthday of Mithra, the infant god of the unconquerable sun.

Looks like a crazy party!

The birth of Jesus was not celebrated by early Christians, their main holiday was Easter. Church officials decided that his birth should be instituted as a holiday. As they did not know the date he was born, Pope Julius I chose December 25th. It is believed that this date was chosen to absorb the traditions of the pagan festivals.

The Nativity

Traditionally, Christmas became a Christian festival around 675AD when St. Boniface cut down an Oak tree in front of some newly baptised Christians. The Oak, sacred to Pagans, split in to four pieces from which grew an evergreen tree. It was symbolic of the death of Paganism and the establishment of Christianity.

St. Boniface cutting the Oak

In 17th century Europe Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces took over England and tried to rid the country of decadence. As a result Christmas was cancelled. After much protest, it was finally reinstated by Charles II.

The Puritan view travelled across to the United states with the Pilgrims and from 1659 - 1681 Christmas was outlawed in Boston, with anyone breaking the law by showing Christmas spirit being fined five shillings. 

Bah Humbug!

In the 19th Century, A Christmas Carol was written by Charles Dickens. During this era, many children lived in poverty and were mistreated by their elders. The message of charity and goodwill to all men spread through America and Victorian Europe and encouraged a day of peace with family and friends, decorating trees, giving gifts and sending cards to each other.

A Victorian Christmas 

The traditional gift giver, Saint Nicholas, is the patron Saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers and students. He was born in Asia Minor (present day Turkey) and lived  from 270-343AD. His wealthy parents, who raised him as a devout Christian, died in an epidemic, and following Jesus’ words to ‘sell what you own and give the money to the poor’ he used his whole inheritance helping those in need and became known for his generosity. 

St. Nicholas

One story tells of a poor man with 3 daughters. Having no money to offer dowries, they had little chance of finding a husband and were destined to be sold in to slavery. On three different occasions, bags of gold were thrown in to the house through an open window. They landed in stockings and shoes hanging by the fire to dry, and this began the custom of leaving stockings to be filled with gifts. Another retelling the story describes the bags of gold as balls. Finding an orange in your stocking is said to represent a golden ball given by St. Nicholas. 

Stockings by the fire

The tradition of the Christmas tree dates back many years, Evergreen trees have always had special meaning for people during the winter months. The belief was that winter was caused by the sun (a god) becoming sick. As he grew weaker the days became shorter. The Winter Solstice (December 21st or 22nd) was celebrated as it meant that the sun god had started to get well again and the light would start to return. 


The Egyptian god Ra, wore the sun on his crown. They celebrated his recovery by bringing green palm rushes symbolising the triumph of life over death in to their homes. 

The Sun God Ra

The Romans saw the solstice as the beginning of the return of their crops and decorated their homes with evergreen boughs. And the Druids in Europe decorated their temples with evergreen branches which symbolised everlasting life. 

Hanging Fruit on evergreens

Ancient Germanic people tied fruit and candles to evergreen branches in honour of their god Woden, the god that gave us our Wednesday or Woden’s day, the green trees symbolising eternal life. 

Merry Christmas!

Whichever point in history our traditions were taken from, each festival and celebration centres around the solstice and the return of the sun. In the days before power this was an important time and signified the start of a new year, the time to make plans, and celebrate longer days and the return of the light. 

(Don’t miss our own solstice themed celebration happening with Lesley’s Re-Birth of the sun challenge!)

However you’ll be celebrating and whatever your traditions, we hope you have a peaceful season and a Happy New Year!

Friday, December 18, 2015

My Christmas Revival

I am here to fully admit that my Christmas planning and crafting does actually begin after Halloween.  I know this goes against some of you and frankly I hate that the stores are putting up Christmas decorations even before, however I need to start then.  The reason....cross stitching.

Before I discovered beadweaving I was a quilter.  Before I was a quilter I was very heavy into cross stitch and even though the quilting and beading had me setting my cross stitch aside and all but forgotten, Christmas revives my love and need for it again.

When I first got married we had a real tree and used the easily replaceable ornaments with just a few exceptions.  I was always intrigued by the ornaments my Mother in Law would make.  I do love all things handmade so it goes without saying I wanted to try.  I started simple with bead kits similar to these

As you know sometimes tree sap can ruin an ornament so some are long gone.  After my daughter was born we discovered we could no longer get a live tree due to her allergies.  That is when I started cross stitching ornaments.  I knew I wanted to have a Santa themed tree so at first I did what ever kit I could get my hands on.

That is when I first discovered Mill Hill bead kits and I knew I needed them for my tree.  I think that is really where my love of seed beads started. .  I love stitching those tiny beads onto the paper and bringing each one to life.  I love how the beads sparkle in the lights of the tree.    Here is what I have made over the last couple of (dare I say it ) decades.

This year my husband gave me a new kit and it was a challenge but WOW it is pretty.

Of course since most of the time the only place I could get the bead kits was at my local cross stitch shop I would always look for new stuff.  That is when I found these little tartlet kits the shop put together by an artist named Pat Thode.

I think I have acquired the whole set as I have completed one or two a year.  I still have about three left to complete.

Here is the two I completed this year.

Last year I also discovered designs by Foxwood Crossings that were attached to mini sleds.  I really had fun with them and cant wait to get another set.

Also last year I discovered that one of my all time favorite designers Just Nan had come out with these amazing little mice and I had to have it.

Isnt it amazing? My friend Maria gave me another Just Nan kit that I was able to get done before the tree went up.

Adding all of these to the handmade ornaments I have made with my friend Maria, been gifted by other friends and of course the ones my mother and my kids have made remind me of all the memories over the years and how happy it was to stitch and collect each one.

Happy Holidays to all of you!