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New Components

Connection. It’s been an interesting concept this year as we have socially distanced from our friends and community during the coronavirus pandemic. We’ve had to find different ways to connect and socialize, and it has been somewhat of a roller coaster for me. I am so thankful that my family likes being together and we like being home. And with the change in our normal schedule I lost a lot of the creative juices I normally have. Eventually I started coming up with ideas of things to try out, like exploring watercolor and pretty papers set under the magnifying properties of doming resin. Connectors! I liked the idea of creating artisan components for my tutorials crowd, my fellow makers, instead of finished jewelry pieces. Connectors to link together wrapped-loop bead links or be the focal point on a strand of beads. (Click those links for free tutorials, by the way).

I started back when it was just starting to feel like summer with sundresses and fishing off the dock, but now we’re in the dog days and I’m itching for fall feels like olive green and copper. Yes, it took me months to get inspired and carve out time with my kids home to put together a grouping of custom bezels with cute designs and colors, to take the leap of that first epoxy pour that would make or break all the effort put in up to that point. Not everything turned out the way I liked, but I thought I’d put these out there to see what the response is like.

Click here to see my current collection of jewelry components, both pendants and connectors.

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Messy Wraps

A lot of things I do go in phases.  I get obsessed, I wear it out, I move on.  Okay, maybe not quite that extreme, but I am pretty fickle about what I’m into; it’s always subject to change.  One trend I’ve noticed in my wirework is a departure from perfect wrapped loops…

Free tutorial on my website
(Link Bracelet)

…in favor of something more organic looking.  I call these messy wraps.

They kinda remind me of tornado beads.

Sure, messy wraps use more wire than coiling, but we’re talking about 22- to 26-gauge “little guy” wire here. And it’s actually easier for me to tuck in the tip of the wire if I do messy wraps instead of perfect coils on briolettes.  Dare I say they look more interesting as well?

And messy wraps are a subtle nod to my beloved bird’s nests.

But wait!  There’s more!  The other day I was on a turquoise kick and strung some simple strands of beads into necklaces.  (Why do I always feel like I have to come up with something new and different when making jewelry?  Why do I fight the feeling that *just* stringing beads is uninspired?  Sometimes simple is elegant.)  This is actually a strand of chrysocolla, but it coordinated nicely with the turquoise grouping. 
I wanted the wearer to be able to put this willow toggle clasp at the front, and I love twisted crimps because they feel so solid, but I don’t think they’re pretty enough for the front of a necklace (left side of photo).  And they’re too big and flat to fit inside my 2mm crimp covers so necessity led to invention.  Rather than order and patiently wait for larger crimp covers, I messy-wrapped the crimps in fine-gauge wire (right side of photo).  This also helps take up slack if you decide that your stringing wire is a bit too long after you crimp.  Not that this ever happens to me.
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Playing with Polymer

People often ask me how long I’ve been making jewelry, which usually requires a follow-up question like, “How long have I been making jewelry like I make now?” 

You see, when I was a kid my parents wouldn’t let me get my ears pierced, so naturally I was fixated on what I couldn’t have. Using my dad’s tools I would bend telephone wire, gleaned from a construction site, into little clip-on earrings.  I had turquoise ones and yellow ones and I didn’t care how ugly or dirty they were.  Later I found some kidney-wire earrings at a craft store and clipped them upside-down to my lobes because it looked like the end of the wire was going into my ear like a real earring.  Hot stuff!  Add to the mix my great aunt, who mined and polished her own stones and got me interested in rock tumbling, and I was a full-on jewelry nerd.  I got really good at wire-wrapping those slippery tumbled stones to make pendants, though, so now wrapping sea glass is second nature. My friend Jenny, whom I’ve known since 6th grade, recently asked me to wire-wrap this piece of larimar, and (kindly) noted that I’ve come a long way since my rock tumbling days. 

What were we talking about?  Oh yeah, polymer clay.  Also during my middle school years I got a sampler pack of Cernit clay at a train show (my Dad is into model trains).  Soon I got into polymer clay (sounds like I’m dabbling in drugs) and would read Nan Roche’s The New Clay like it was my job.  I worked with polymer clay on into high school and thought it was really cool to make earrings as miniature versions of the designs in special outfits.  That’s when I got started with beads, too, back before internet shopping.  So when I say I’ve been making jewelry since I was a kid, my products back then are not what I consider lovely today.  I haven’t any examples to show you, although my mother still wears her vintage AnneMade Jewelry to my chagrin.
These days (meaning now that I have a jewelry business) after I have a chance to recover from the holiday season of making and selling jewelry and all our Christmas festivities, it’s usually the dead of winter and I get a yearning for spring.  I do have to work ahead of the season, so it’s not unusual for me to use delicate pastels and beachy brights at this time of year.  I’ve been itching to play with polymer clay again and make some pendants for spring.  And I love that my original sampler pack of Sculpey is still as good as it was 20 years ago.  Polymer clay has come a long way since then, including the development  stronger formulas, liquid clay, and surface techniques like mica shift.  I have always been too cheap to invest in a pasta machine, but today I realized that hand-kneading clay takes forever. 
(I think it’s funny that my clay turned out the same color as the shopping list I created while kneading it. Love this color!)  So yesterday I printed out a Michael’s coupon and headed there as soon as Olivia woke up from her nap. I also found treasures in the stamping aisle (alcohol inks to color liquid Sculpey, dye ink pads for rubber stamping, clear stamps so you can see what you’re doing).  And what a difference the pasta machine makes!  It’s like a mini rolling mill, in fact I could run texture through with the clay.  Once I knead the clay to get it soft, mixing colors on the machine is so easy.  And after working with PMC so much, it’s so great not to have to worry about a piece drying out on me.  If I don’t like it I just ball it up and try again.  I do have to worry about foreign particles, though, because I’m not firing this clay in a kiln like PMC.  (Side note: PMC people, if you’re looking for Teflon paper to use as a work surface, Michaels has it in the stamp/ink aisle.)

Another creative chapter in my past is painting.  If you come to my house I may not point them out, but several of the pictures on our walls are watercolors and drawings I did in high school.  And if you’ve ever worked with oil paint (or acrylic) you’ll know the concept of color saturation.  A tiny dab of alizarin crimson or titanium white is all it takes to affect the whole glob of paint because those colors are so saturated.  Same goes with certain colors of polymer clay, so if you’re just starting out remember to mix in only a little bit of a new color at a time.
I view the Pantone season forecast a little like I view the Farmer’s Almanac.  Does anyone ever look back and grade them on how accurate they were, or do we just trust them?  I live in a small town out in the country, so we’re a little behind the style trends anyway, so I tend to just use what I like.  Right now it’s orchid.

Did it again! This ballet pink pendant matched another Post-It. Maybe I need to get my fashion forecast from 3M.

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Anniversary gifts

I’ve had two guys contact me lately, each approaching their 7th year of marriage, each looking for copper jewelry for an anniversary gift knowing it is their “year of copper or wool (or desk sets).” One asked for a copper nest pendant with a freshwater pearl “egg” for each of their children.
The other one designed this personalized necklace with their initials on hammered copper tags, the year they got married (in Roman numerals), a heart for love, and a rose which has a special meaning in their relationship.
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Spring Flight

I love robins, nests, spring, aqua, twigs, lots of things that make up this necklace.  I don’t usually make asymmetrical pieces, but I had this piece of chain that was too long for a bracelet and I didn’t want to waste the extra, so I thought I’d do half a necklace with it.  And one dead-of-winter morning I was laying in bed and I came up with all these bird-themed components, some of which are in this piece and others are in the rest of the collection.  I put some blue and some green in there, glass, pearl, stone, a touch of brass, and a couple of speckle-glaized ceramic beads.

Here is the bracelet ($55, necklace is $125) and I also have a pair of speckled-egg earrings ($26).  They’re heading to the wonderful Simply Charming Boutique next week, so if you are interested shoot me an email.
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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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Stamped Bird and Branch

Fresh snow blankets the ground.  A sparrow perches nearby on a crab apple branch, waiting for the blue jay to leave so she can have a turn at the feeder.

I love twigs.  I love berries.  I love birds.  Is it any surprise that my newest option in stamped jewelry is a combination of those things? 

These bird & branch tags can be personalized with your children’s names along the edge, and I can apply the design to most of the shapes and materials listed on this page.

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Catching up

Okay, so I’m a little behind on the blogging. And the housework. And my Inbox. Steve’s been traveling a lot (although it’s not his fault), and I seem to be happier and get a lot more things accomplished when he’s home. And I seem to have a pretty bad case of Babies on the Brain, so I tend to have more to talk about over on my other blog.In the jewelry department, I am working on a Bird Nest tutorial (pictured), cleaning off my workbench a little, ordering silver, embellishing some Viking Knit… Of course I like to actually finish something before telling you guys, but I thought I’d throw you a bone to let you know what’s in the pipeline. I went to an awesome bead show in Vienna, VA a few weeks ago and saw some of my favorite lampworkers, including Patti Cahill from Dyed in the Fire. Talk about little works of art! And yes, you heard me right. The market price of silver has been over $21/troy ounce this year and now it is around $9, so I will be adjusting kit prices accordingly.
Website update: When I said the site now has a “fresher, high-key” look, I didn’t realize that everybody except for me was seeing just a boring plain white screen aside from the text and pictures. It’s supposed to look like this, with a sage floral print in the background. I posted on a webmaster forum and got a quick response, so the problem should be fixed now. (You may need to hit Refresh to see.)Perhaps the next installment in my book collection should be The Lazy Housekeeper: Easily-cleaned surfaces, those that hide dirt, etc. I personally believe that dust is a protective covering, so my coffee table is actually “flocked”. If you’re in the market for a dog, choose one with short hair that doesn’t tumbleweed, thereby keeping your wood floors cleaner. Having a screened porch with brown indoor-outdoor carpeting has really cut down on the paw-wiping necessity, too. Now if I could only find a way to harness the energy in the wagging tail and apply that to the noseprints on the windows.

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OBX Babymoon

Steve and I just spent a wonnnnnnderful getaway in Duck, NC. Relaxing on the beach, relaxing at the pool, side-by-side pedicures, good food, our kind of vacation. My favorite thing was to sit in beach chairs to watch the nature video: sand crabs digging holes, sandpipers looking for dinner but avoiding the surf, pelicans flying in formation, schools of dolphins, seagulls checking out the seaweed… Our hotel room was so pretty, with birds and eggs and seashells everywhere. And when I walked into the bathroom my first thought was, “This looks like our bathroom at home.” Aqua-gray walls, sandy tile, glass shower. The staff was helpful and friendly, amenities were plentiful, restaurant was delicious, weather was perfect for bathing suits, plus they serve hot/iced tea & homemade cookies in the afternoon and offer turndown service (with chocolates and a forecast) at night.

Vitamin D Sunset on the sound2 What volcano cake Afternoon tea Currituck Lighthouse DuckBabymoon08