Monday, November 23, 2009

On the Fifth Day of Christmas..... FIVE Pairs of Earrings!

I think earrings are sometimes treated as an afterthought by the jewelry world. They don't get their own tutorials in beading magazines, they are sidelined as addenda to larger projects like necklaces, they are portrayed as beginner's fodder—simple, quick and easy.

They can be and should be considered perfect little artworks on their own. Tiny, yet powerful, they hang close to our faces, enhancing our smiles, flirting with our hair or staking claim to the attention of everyone we speak to. More than merely ear adornment, they are powerful indicators of our mood, our style, our color preferences or our point of view. Whether we feel whimsical or centered, extravagant or tailored-- earrings deserve our design consideration and attention to detail just as much as any other piece of jewelry.

Often my earrings begin as leftover pieces of clay that I can't bear just to chuck into the scrap pile, since most of my mokume gane is very labor-intensive. I usually piece the scraps into mosaic-- another example of a technique born of accident and opportunity-- and the size usually dictates the use so-- voila! we have earrings! Mine tend to be larger and longish, providing more space for the mokume patterns to be seen. But then how to embellish without adding more length?

Found objects frequently come to my rescue, those precious little bits of flotsam and jetsam that I repurpose for ornamentation. One of my best finds was a length of ornate stamped brass molding that probably trimmed the metal ceiling in a turn-of-the-century bar in New York City. Flattened, cut into pieces, cleaned up and sanded, I've dangled and glued many a piece to a pair of earrings. All these bits and bobs tell a story and—after all-- that's what I'm about! Many pieces of my old earrings have been reborn into a new life as a completely redesigned pair. I like to think that whatever I spent on them was well worth it-- first, to be worn as a favorite for so many years and now to grace the lobes of a stranger who picked those particular ones out of hundreds of choices available to buyers. Kismet, as they say.

As the season of Yule is upon us, celebrate the power of small artwork by making a pair of earrings for someone special! Really take some time to make them unique, hunt down some unusual findings or some tiny bit of bling, dig through your old issues of beading magazines for inspiration and your boxes of old jewelry for supplies. You might find yourself, as I did, spending an enjoyable afternoon making--just earrings.

Serengeti Earrings - Available in my Etsy shop

November Skies Earrings - Available in my Etsy shop

Hapshepsut's Earrings - Available in my Etsy shop

Pagoda Earrings - Available in my Etsy shop

Mykonos Earrings - Available in my Etsy shop

Kyoto Earrings - also beads, all available in my Etsy shop

Friday, November 6, 2009

Writer's Block

I finally posted a blog earlier this week after about a month's inactivity. I was active but the activity was more mental than physical and blogging about it wasn't all that interesting. Besides, blogging is such a visual medium, at least for artists, and I wanted to wait until I had something to show.

I was in a thinking and reflecting mode-- taking a new class, visiting with my sister, discussing new directions, doing some new collaborations and trying some new techniques. Actually, my writer's block is more of a “maker's block”-- I have too many ideas and nothing seems to get created! Some of my readers may be rolling their eyes and thinking, “That's a problem?” Well, it is when you can't seem to settle down on one thing and complete it. Too many balls in the air!

One thing I've been working on are beads for a few new collaborations with Cindy Wimmer of Sweetbead Studio. Cindy is so easy and fun to work with and I really respect her design ability and artistic flair. She makes my beads look good! We can't show you the results right now but hint-hint--they will show up in publications in the future. Here are the beads.

Washed Ashore focal bead

Fallen to Earth beads - for sale in my Etsy shop

Some conversations she and I had while working together resulted in my experimenting with a fun product called micaceous iron oxide, a type of paint known among polymer clay artists as “raku sauce”. It gives a finish to a smooth surface that you would expect from traditional raku, a Japanese technique using a rough clay body that is fired quickly and develops some very interesting metallic glaze effects. So I set out to mimic some of those colors using quirky tube bead shapes, metallic paints and powders. I liked the result so much that I included the tube beads in my Hallowe'en Tribal necklace (see post on Nov. 2) and one I put together this morning, drawing on one of Lorelei Eurto's pieces in Jane Dickerson's book Chain Style for inspiration. There are quite a few fresh and unusual takes on stringing and chain in this new book so I consider my purchase to be money well spent.

Japanese beetle beads - available in my Etsy shop

Metallica Necklace

Monday, November 2, 2009

Trick or Treat!

I've always loved the Hallowe'en color palette-- pumpkin orange, sleek kittykat black, tumbling autumn leaves in rust, gold, and crimson, big ochre Harvest moon, scudding gunmetal gray clouds over pale stars-- it's rich and mysterious all at the same time.

Since I've lately fallen deeply in love with beach stones and enameled beads, it seemed natural to me to use these two unique elements in a piece about the season. Barbara Lewis whipped out a custom order of her new Persian Lantern enameled beads for me and I found the perfect wave-tossed and tumbled beach stone Hallowe'en focal in the Etsy shop of Stone Me. Happiness is the perfect combination of orange, black and texture!

I paired the hammered copper washers from the auto parts store with the chunky wrapped links my friend Cindy Wimmer used in her bracelet featured on the cover of the latest special issue of Easy Wire. After making several tube beads out of black polymer clay, they were textured differently, cured and then were embellished with metallic powders and acrylic paints. I was going for a raku look and decided the banded one had the right weight and look. I just happened to have the copper seedbeads on hand and used them for little wirewrapped segments up one side of the necklace. The little swirly copper charm hanging from the focal is made with BronzClay, one of the pieces I did in Celie Fago's metal clay workshop last month. You'll be hearing about that more in upcoming posts and seeing more of the things I made there.

So here's your finished Treat, Gentle Readers! I hope you didn't think I'd abandoned you-- just a short hiatus to reflect, renew and refresh my ideas. I hope to share some insights into new directions I'm exploring. I think they're exciting and I believe you will too! Stay tuned!