Thursday, September 15, 2016

Art Jewelry Elements Autumn Challenge: Trees

I love how life has those serindipitous moments that touch our hearts. Caroline Dewison's post for this Art Jewelry Elements Autumn Tree-Themed Challenge arrived in my blog feed just when I needed it. 

The Inspiration

My favorite images from Caroline's post are framed in this collage:

Trees and forests have always fascinated and comforted me, but they have lately become a great source of passion for me. 

When I retired from teaching and moved to the Oregon coast, I believed that I would be living in a paradise by the sea. Those gorgeous hills of old-growth forests in a state famous for being green. We built our house so that our bedroom windows framed a beautiful, forested hill. One morning we awoke to the sound of beeping and crashing, a sound that has become far too common here . . . the sound of industrial timber turning a diverse ecosystem into another clearcut wasteland. It is impossible to travel along coastal Oregon and not be assaulted by vast swaths of clearcuts, yet another example of  resource extraction for corporate profit. Seeing our diverse old-growth forests disappear at such an alarming rate breaks my heart. For example, the Homesteader Forest. Pictures tell the story.

The photos below show our community watershed. This is right behind my neighborhood. 

This devastation has activated me to advocate for healthy forests by joining a coalition of citizen and non-profit groups that seek to educate Oregonians and push for legislative action to reform the Oregon Forest Practices Act that allows this kind of destruction. A short but powerful video shows this issue clearly: Oregon Forest Voices: Timber's Cover-Up

The Jewelry

Some of you are no doubt saying, "Enough already! Show us the jewelry."  Here is THAT story. 

Caroline Dewison of randomly selected two winners to receive one of her lovely tree beads made from buff stoneware clay and decorated with underglazes and a china painted tree motif. How lucky I was to have won one of these beauties!  (Connection: my great aunt painted beautiful china).

Exciting day when the package arrived from the UK!

The best part of a challenge such as this is anticipating what other designers will create with the exact same component. I spent much time gazing at this beautiful bead and imagining the possibilities for a context in which to highlight it. The more I pondered, the more clear it became that ALL the focus needed to be on this lovely component. The shape and weight of it shouted NECKLACE PENDANT with few competing adornments. I obliged. 

Using brass wire, I created a spiral and strung an antiqued brass bead, a cap, and Caroline's pendant, and then I created a loop with a chunky wire wrap. Luckily, it was a sunny, warm day, allowing me to set up my oxidizing station on my deck. 

The weight of the pendant called for an equally weighty stringing medium, so I chose soft, black deerskin leather accented with old padre trade beads and antiqued brass large-hole beads. I always like to make necklace length adjustable, so I deferred to my usual method - threading both ends of the leather through a trade bead (tight squeeze through that hole) and pulling the brass-beaded ends to shorten it. 

Even though jewelry sets seldom sell as such for me, I couldn't resist a pair of earrings to go with this necklace. Wanting to stick with the oval shape in neutral colors, I wire wrapped an agate briolette and brass bead with dark, annealed steel wire to capture the black color of the pendant trees and trim. I embossed the brass hoops with a tree branch & leaf pattern, domed them, and oxidized them. To be honest, I put the hoops in the oxidizing solution and completely forgot about them for about an hour, which resulted in a very rustic, yet fitting, patina. They feel like they might have been lost for years in an old-growth Oregon forest. Finally, I used brass connectors in a complimentary oval shape, adorned with antiqued brass beads. The antiqued brass earwires are handmade. 

So here is the finished set, which I plan to donate as a door-prize/raffle item for an upcoming event to support responsible forestry practices. 

THANK YOU to Art Jewelry Elements for hosting these challenges and to Caroline Dewison for her giveaway of this lovely bead. Check out the links below for Caroline's shop and for the reveal of other talented designers' creations honoring the theme of trees.

Friday, July 1, 2016

We're All Ears :: July Reveal

Where has the time gone, and what I have I been doing with it? My last blog post and earring inspiration for We're All Ears was in October 2015! 

Well, it has been a weird and busy 9 months. Brutal winter flooding. Escape vacations to bask in the wonderous Redwoods and see friends in Spokane, Washington. Lots of custom jewelry orders. The creation of an exclusive collection of feather-themed jewelry for Sunflower Flats, a lovely shop in Tillamook, Oregon. Some environmental activism related to deforestation and water quality here on the Oregon coast. Pet emergencies. The list continues . . . as does life.

But then, while scrolling through my news feed, this challenge caught my eye. 

On the day I noticed the challenge inspiration on my newsfeed, I had just returned from the nursery with a new favorite perriniel - the balloon flower. What a coincidence! Balloons, it seems, were calling my name. 

Keepin' it simple, I dove into my long-time hoarded, matched gemstone slabs, the balloon-shaped ones. I was inspired to use the yellows, oranges, and reds from the hot-air balloon photo. (As much as I wanted to use purple to represent my flowers, I had no purple-colored slabs.) I love working with these stones because keeping the focus on the stones forces me to keep the design minimal, a departure from my usual style. 

Bumblebee jasper (from Intrinsic Trading), jet, resin, dark annealed steel wire

Cherry creek jasper (from Hampton's Rock Shop), turquoise, antiqued copper
Yea! These are actually right-side up, hot-air balloon orientation!

To see other designs by talented artists, visit this blog post: Earrings Everyday. Thanks, Erin, for your continued inspiration! This challenge got me back into the blogosphere and helped me get motivated to fullfil an order for 15 pairs of gemstone slab earrings for a local shop. Yea!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Chain Gang

While on vacation, I couldn't resist a stop at Heartsong Beads in Seal Rock, Oregon. (Honestly, I did TRY to pass by, but the temptation got the better of me. I mean, really, I had just made a haul at three other bead shops in California, and I already have tons of beads languishing in my studio already, unused and forgotten. I tell you, this bead addiction is a bugger to kick.)

Beautiful lampwork beads, sterling silver findings, art beads, enamel beauties . . . stop me, someone! Well, there were deals - her gorgeous lampwork beads were 40% off and this antiqued brass chain was cheap. Because the links are unsoldered, I wouldn't use this chain in heavy necklaces, but the oval links could be useful. In my shopping bag it went. 

When I arrived home, it was this brass chain that inspired me to experiment. Now I had thousands of brass connecting links to use, so I decided to explore all possible configurations of earring designs using them.

Earring Designs From Simple to Complicated

Often, my earring designs are complicated and time-consuming, so it was refreshing to just make a simple and casual pair at a lower price point. A wrapped glass briolette and a beaded earwire. 

A wrapped magnesite coin bead

A sparkly glass and brass dangle (I don't often do bling, but I love these purply faceted beads.)

A periwinkle glass briolette

A Vintaj-patinated copper shell charm and brass jump ring

An apatite and brass dangle and a blue quartz beaded and wire-wrapped earwire

A Picasso Czech glass dangle with Indonesian glass beaded and wire-wrapped earwire

Oh, and how about double links with acryllic flowers
Getting more complicated now . . .  a triple dangle of glass and beaded earwire
A triple dangle of gemstones - magnesite and coral - and brass

Dreaming of Designs

Often, jewelry ideas float around in my head before I fall asleep. (I've lost a lot of sleep this way. I just have to get up and follow through with the idea.) Since the links were on my mind,  it occurred to me that I could use these them as frames backed with pieces of tin. A little E-6000 did the trick. I'm glad I remembered to punch the hole before I glued the link to the tin. I don't usually create designs in a single color, but I didn't want to detract from the cool tin pattern. Now that I look at this, a light blue accent would have been nice. 

Gotta Love Leather

Another one of those trying-to-get-to-sleep moments when link earring ideas flooded my brain. Use leather! I made a suede leather loop to hold the link. Not liking the exposed hole, I added a brass spacer to hide the hole. (These earrings were difficult to photograph, so I'll include one on an earring card to show how the hole is hidden.)

Recycled glass, carnelian, and brass.
Recycled glass, carved bone, and brass
Czech glass, carved bone, brass

Recycled glass, carved bone, brass
For now, I have satiated my obsession with these links and am ready to move on to another material. I do like the idea of having a ton of oval shaped jump rings at my whim. Great purchase!

Seashells by the Seashore

I have such a weakness for buttons, mother of pearl ones especially. In Trinidad, California I discovered a bead shop that was pure heaven - shell beads and buttons, abalone, trade beads, bone beads, and leather. Shelves and shelves of the exact kind of stuff I love. I bought bags of beautiful mother of pearl buttons in both ivory and pink colors. Now, what to do with them? 

I love the soft and feminine feel of this silver, gray labradorite, and soft pink MOP color pallete. These earrings were so difficult to photograph to capture the flash of the labradorite and the glisten of the button. They look so much more delicate and soft in person. 

And now, pink MOP buttons paired with lavender glass drops and pewter tubes. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


On a recent trip to Northern California, I had the pleasure of shopping at Tailsman Beads in Eureka, where I picked up this colored recycled telephone wire. I almost overlooked these, but on my way to the register they caught my eye. Such cool colors! I wasn't sure what I would actually do with this wire, as I haven't really been attracted to colored wire before. 

When I arrived home and pulled out this cool stash of wire, I immediately knew I would be making wrapped and beaded hoop earrings. Wanting them to have an industrial look, the steel wire I just HAD to have a long time ago seemed like good hoop material. 
Then I noticed my collection of eye shield charms that I cut, embossed, and painted a long time ago seemed to compliment the colors of the wires. Hmmm . . . 

Wrapping that phone wire is such a meditative pleasure - soft on the hands and nicely pliable. The first pair of earrings, in gray, yellow, and black is my favorite pair. I love those gray Indonesian glass beads! 

Next up, white and gray wire with black glass seed beads. 

Love the blue and purple, too!

I just love it when an inspired idea strikes, especially after such a long hiatus from jewelry-making and creative inspiration. Eureka!