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Bead Table Wednesday

I’m not very good at telling you guys what’s new in my studio, but it happens to be Wednesday and I have seen other jewelry artists participate in this, so I thought it would be fun to post about what’s on my bead table today.

Trying to stockpile pieces for fall, I’m working in series rather than my usual, “make what I feel like making today.”  The current series is (begrudgingly) utilizing my stash of Koy Glass lampwork beads.  Some of the donuts have rather large holes, and usually this doesn’t bother me because I stick a bead cap over it or a bead in the hole and it looks more polished.  But donuts are worn with the hole showing, so I chose to line them with silver or copper tubing, which I get in the plumbing department at Lowes.

This is one of several “bead tables” in my studio, so maybe another Wednesday I will show you the organized chaos of my real bead table.  Here are the copper-lined big-hole-beads I did today.

And with all the tap-tap-tapping I woke up my studio partner, who was napping across the hall.  So I put her to work stringing beads.  Here is her bead table.
What’s on your table?
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Lampwork station

When we lived in Delaware I had my lampwork torch set up in the basement of an 1860s row home, with the hood venting through a removable pane in the nearby window.  It was dark so I could see the glass color as it melted, and it was cool even in the summertime (which is important when you’re working near a torch).  And then we moved to Virginia.  Now our house is a suburban colonial.  Melting glass in a carpeted bedroom (my studio) is not an option.  The basement is finished except for a below-grade (no window) storage room, so I couldn’t just recreate my former setup. We now have a garage (thankfully) but there is no place to vent a hood except for large openings like doors, and if you are venting bad air out a large opening, the fumes are going to come right back in.  So for 3 1/2 years I pondered but did nothing.  Then a series of events happened to get the ball rolling…

Mom & Olivia watching the glassblower

1.  On New Year’s Eve we went to the local First Night celebration, and included in the entertainment was a demonstration in the studio of a new glassblower.  I was so excited to have a real live glassworker right in town here.  A few days later I talked to him on the phone to inquire about renting studio space since it is close to Olivia’s preschool. 

2.  The next week I met lampworker Hope Gibson when we were in St. Croix.  The most important thing I brought home with me is her motto, “Relatively Close.”  Her beads may not be perfect, but they’re gorgeous and she doesn’t sweat the small stuff.  I have pockets of perfectionism here and there, to the point of not being able to try certain things if I don’t think I can do them perfectly.  Lampwork falls into that category, and I need to constantly remind myself that I am not going for awards; I just maybe need some blue beads.  (Hope’s other motto is “Be bold, eat chocolate, wear art” and I have taken that to heart as well.)

Helping Mommy buy downspouts

The local glassblower never called me back about studio space, and that turned out to be exactly what I needed.  I still had all my equipment (torch, hoses, kiln, oxycon) from our old house, so I finally decided to have a contractor install a window in the garage with sashes the size of a box fan.  Then I got a great idea for glass rod storage from Kerry Bogert using vinyl downspouts.

And right after that I found out I was pregnant and spent the next few months (first trimester) exhausted and napping whenever I could.  I had lost my steam, and all I had really needed was some new bead release. (Bead release is the stuff that keeps the glass from permanently adhering to the metal rod around which you are winding the glass.)  But…

3.  Two weeks ago I drove through the Finger Lakes region on my way to my in-laws’ house.  I stopped in at Artizanns in Naples, NY and found this awesome bracelet with wonky, earth-toned beads.   Wonky=irregularly shaped, and in this case it was fabulous!  Very organic, where lampwork is often bright, cheerful, and perfect.  It made me want to make beads — earthy, sloppy ones.  So I ordered some new glass colors (first time trying Creation is Messy) and fresh bead release.  I still need to test out the hose connections and pressure, then do an incense test on the ventilation. 

So… I’m closer to making some lampwork than I was six months ago, but I’m still not there yet.  Not to mention that school is out so Olivia is home every morning and I am trying to work ahead making jewelry to sell in the fall when our baby is due.  Glass rods don’t go bad, just the bead release.  So if I don’t get to do everything on my studio to-do list this year, so be it.  I’m in the season of Having Small Children and that’s what’s important right now.  I’m down with OPB (other people’s beads).

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Thinking spring & The Bloom

It’s that time of year…  The holidays are over, there are pockets of warm days surrounded by blustery cold, and I’m yearning for spring.  This is the time of year I start on my spring line, and especially now that I have a little one it’s important to start early or it becomes summer before I know it. 
I’m experimenting with “new” media like doming resin and polymer clay.  Oh, I’m no stranger to polyclay, but it’s come a long way since I was working with it as a teenager.  While cleaning out the storage room in my parents’ basement I came across my old box of Sculpey.  So I experimented with some simple textured pendants and bird eggs and it’s still good after 20+ years.  And mixing 2-part epoxy reminds me of helping my dad with his model train layout when I was a kid.  We didn’t get the mixing quite right, so part of the river was sticky after curing.  This time around I’m aware of tricks like using a flame to encourage air bubbles to pop, and testing the leftover epoxy in the cup (instead of getting fingerprints on my pendants) to see if it’s cured. 

Here are some of the components I have gathered to make into necklaces, bracelets, and earrings for spring.

Along with spring in the Shenandoah Valley comes the Bloom.  Everyone wears pink and green to celebrate the apple blossoms, so here is the start of my collection for Simply Charming Boutique.  Fortunately in recent years the rest of the country has had a love affair with that color combination, so there is some wonderful lampwork to be had. 

If you see something you like in either photo, just email me for pricing and availability.

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Christmas Rest

It worked!  Making an order deadline (and subsequently enforcing it) has created a distinct lack of stress this year, for the first time since I started my business in 2004.  I finally get to enjoy December, hang out with my family and friends at will, and not get burnt out doing custom orders at the last minute.  We figured we won’t bother getting a Christmas tree until Olivia “gets” it (and wouldn’t want to eat it), though.

I’ve been sitting on a set of Twelve Days of Christmas sterling silver charms for a few years now, every year forgetting about them until January.  I hung them from a simple chain bracelet and they, along with the following set of jewelry, are at Simply Charming Boutique in downtown Winchester, VA.  If you don’t live locally and you must have something, just drop me an email and I can see what’s left.  Not pictured is another pair of earrings with the green Swarovski crystals from the necklace.  (Peridot Satin for those Swarovski fans out there.) 

The thing I love about these Christmas lampwork beads is the gold swirls and holly that resemble Lenox china with a subtle nod to the holiday.  I’m not into cutesy reindeer or snowmen lampwork beads.  The necklace is actually a bracelet with an extender that hooks into the other end. You can wear it as either, depending on your outfit or taste.

Have a Merry Christmas!


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On my bench

Okay, it’s been a month since my last confession post and I’m the first to admit I am a delinquent jewelry blogger.  I have so much going on I don’t even post to my family blog all that much.  When all else fails, throw some pictures up there and tell a story or two, right? 
Here’s a piece that graced my pliers yesterday.  A crazy-beautiful Tom Boylan focal, purchased from him in his California studio.  Right now it is sitting on my bench, wired to amethyst and pearl links, 11 inches in total.  Well that’s not long enough for a necklace, is it?  No.  I intend to fasten the ends to lengths of chain, but before I can do that I need to make more of my signature spiral hook clasps so that I can get an accurate length before I cut the chain.  I have the wire & pliers I use to make the clasps all in a bag waiting for the next football game or car ride so I can sit down and make a bunch at once while I’m a captive audience.  The thing is, that hasn’t happened much lately so this project sits, unfinished, until the stars align.
Meanwhile I have been hoarding some Patti Cahill lampwork I purchased a year ago, and finally broke up the set rather than put all the gorgeous eggs into one basket-necklace.  First of all, putting all the special beads into one piece makes it pretty expensive (Patti is one person who has great talent and charges what it is worth).  Secondly, when I break it up it makes for a nice grouping at the shop downtown. 

This fall I am in love with peacock blue, plum purple, and olive green….  TOGETHER!!!  And it’s everywhere, so I figure I’m not the only one who does, so I made a necklace with different shapes of Swarovski crystals in those colors. 

Speaking of following fashion trends, I can’t tell you how many times I have been advised by well-meaning friends to scour fashion magazines to see what “the latest” is and make jewelry like I see in there.  If you’ve met me you’ll know that I don’t necessarily wear what is in style, I wear what I like.  I tend to make jewelry the same way, not chasing trends and being left with dozens of ear threads when the fad fades, and so far that has worked out for me.  If I like what’s in, so be it, but I’m not going to make something just because it’s in.
Up next for this lazy jewelry blogger?  Jewelry tweeting, since I think a lot of my followers found me because of jewelry.  Follow me @annemade or over on my blog sidebar.
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More lampwork notes

Starleen sent the beads from my second day of lampworking class. I have to tell you that it is taking a lot of self-confidence for me to post these! Lampwork takes a lot of practice and I have very little experience. So, for the sake of showing progress (I hope), I’m posting my beginner beads. I hope that telling you why I have made certain shapes and styles will help qualify what would otherwise be horrifying beads. To those who could care less how beads are made and all the possibilities herein, you may stop reading now lest you get that glazed look in your eyes.
The top row has a couple of lentil beads I made when learning how to use a bead press. There are all kinds of shapes and sizes to squish your molten glass into, and I think my first press is going to be a combo from Zoozi’s. I can’t resist a 2-for-1 bargain. The third bead on the top row was a study on how dark ivory reacts with intense black stringer. The next row, left bead, is me practicing with a new kind of glass from Rocio that is supposed to make swirly blues and greens in a reducing (low oxygen) flame. Otherwise it’s ugly army green, and I got a lot of that. The bead to its right is a study on how turquoise transparent reacts with dark ivory to basically outline the turquoise in black. Very sharp. The third row has more studies of color reactions. The middle and far-right bead have silver foil melted in for extra sparkle and reactivity. The white bead (second from right) has dots of silver plum which gets a luster finish in a reducing flame.

I torched a little in my lampwork studio tonight. I just sold a bracelet with what I call ice cube beads and, although I understood for a while how they’re made, I wanted to try it. They are annealing in the kiln, so I’ll post pictures when they’re cooled.

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More classes

This week I took a 2-day Intermediate Lampwork class at Starleen’s Studio. She is an excellent instructor and really bends over backward for her students. These are beads from Day 1 here. The pink beads are a “striking” (read finicky) color called Rubino Oro, one of the best pinks out there. The one with flowers was done by Starleen, but it looked good with the encased frit beads. To their right is a study of how different families of glass act when molten, so they’re just plain rounds & spacers. Stringer/twisty application is in the center (staged on a goldstone stringer to get them to sit right), a Sahara bead (looks like a round candy corn), and an aqua feathered tab (sounds totally 80’s) . Day 2’s beads had to stay in the kiln to anneal, so I’ll get those in the mail later.

On Saturday my friend Mary and I are heading to NYC to take Sharilyn Miller‘s Twining Vines class. She lives in California and doesn’t come out this way much, and she’s one of the country’s top wire workers. Her book Bead on a Wire is one of my favorites.

New classes are starting at Sparkles, too! I just posted my December schedule.

As much as I love surfing the web to see what’s going on in the world, what I really need to be doing these days is making jewelry for the upcoming shopping season. Forgive me if I don’t post as often, the highlight of your day though it may be. I’ll try to slap stuff up on the Sneak Peek page as I make it, just to throw you guys a bone (you who are here for new stuff).

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New crop

Here’s the batch of beads I made yesterday. I’m trying to torch more regularly so I don’t have to re-learn different techniques every time. My friend Marianne gave me an assignment so I’d have a little inspiration to get back into lampworking after having it on the back burner this spring. Steve has also been torching this weekend, and it’s fun to learn this together. Another batch is annealing in the kiln right now…

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Lampwork and the rest of the weekend

On Saturday Steve and I visited the Reading Terminal Market in Philly where one can find produce, baked goods, ice cream, and ethnic food from falafel to wontons. We had southern food at Delilah’s.

Then we finished setting up the exhaust hood and kiln in our lampwork studio, and each made a bead to be sure we hadn’t forgotten how. I noticed that it is nice and cool in the basement even on the hottest of days, so hopefully I’ll work on the torch a lot this summer. What else am I up to? Class stuff, mostly. Learning new techniques to teach my students, putting together a class sample board for Sparkles, writing up handouts for new techniques, teaching local kids at the library…

Yesterday we braved the rain for Taste of Wilmington to sample food from local restaurants and caterers. Highlights were one of the most delicious crabcakes ever (backfin meat with a minimal amount of filler), an oh-so-tender prime rib sandwich, and chocolate fondue from the Melting Pot. I saved that for the ride home since it was hard to eat while holding an umbrella. They only give you 4 things to dunk in the cup of chocolate, so instead of just drinking the rest I held out and dunked my Swedish ginger cookies in it at home.

Riley is going stir-crazy in all this rain! She needs a jog big-time, but alas I am made of sugar and do not run in the rain. My garden, on the other hand, is doing really well. I think we have a tomato plant volunteer in between shrubs in the front of our yard. The real vegetable garden is at my neighbor’s house in the back. He bought the planters and we bought the plants & potting soil, and we already have an abundance of basil and cilantro. We’re getting closer to having our own cucumbers, zucchini, yellow squash, peppers, and tomatoes.

Vegetable plants? $24. Soil? $20. Pale, bland, storebought tomatoes October through June? $10. Picking your own vine-ripened beefsteaks? Priceless.