Saturday, August 29, 2015

AJE August Component of the Month Reveal

Every month the talented team of jewelry artists at the Art Jewelry Elements blog hosts a giveaway of an artisan component. This month's component was crafted by Diana Ptaszynski of Suburban Girl studio. Look at this collection of gorgeous stoneware pendants!

Her process for creating these lovely rustic stoneware coin pendants is described in this post. Fascinating! 

With fingers crossed to win one of these pendants, I put my name in the hat and received an email message that I had WON. Yea! The day the package arrived was mighty exciting. Which color had Diana sent? Tucked safely inside some bubble wrap was this lovely piece. Thank you so much, Diana!

For me, this challenge certainly lived up to its name. I've never before designed jewelry with a donut-shaped pendant like this, so I must admit that it sat on my studio table, lonely but not forgotten, for weeks while I mulled over the possibilities.

One goal that I had for myself on this project was to keep it simple, focusing attention on the beauty of the pendant. Visions of complicated necklace bails kept popping into my brain - metal, rivets, texture. Be gone, complicated! Keep it simple.

Time marched on, and soon I received a message from Diana reminding me of the reveal date. The pressure began to mount. Time was short, and I had to get this project done.  It's a weird thing how the creative process works. Surrounded by thousands of beads and components in my jewelry studio, how could I not come up with something? Midnight, 1:30, 2:30 . . . shuffling things around, getting ideas, abandoning them. All I had decided was to make a necklace and tie on deerskin lacing with a lark's head knot. How original is that?

Ok, focus on the pendant. Keep the color palette neutral and the style organic and earthy. Hang something from the pendant, but what? Agates collected on my beach stared at me from a jar on the windowsill. Use me! I caged a perfectly-shaped rock in an antiqued copper cage and went to bed.

In the light of the morning, it dawned on my to use some brown waxed linen to tie on the caged agate. To add a slight pop of color, I added a green aged picasso Czech glass bead. The shapes that kept appearing in my mind's eye had materialized here in the pendant portion of the necklace and the proportions seemed just right. Good.

Now to tackle the leather lacing. I played with various incarnations of bead groupings and finally settled on knotting aged picasso Czech glass beads, old padre trade beads, and copper spacers and beads. Things were looking more hopeful, and I began really liking this necklace. 

Necklace length always vexes me. I love my necklaces long, but I know that many customers prefer shorter ones. To solve that problem, I prefer making necklaces adjustable, whenever possible. Large hole bead to the rescue. I like adorning the leather ends, so that if the wearer chooses a shorter length, the ends can hang down, adding an interesting design element. 

After completing a necklace or bracelet, I always feel compelled to make coordinating earrings. Though sets seldom sell as such and usually end up as orphans, I still make them. Besides, I wanted to use these polka dot agate beads I purchased at a recent gem and mineral show in Seaside. Love those paired with antiqued copper and mother of pearl. 

So here it is, the completed set. I feel satisfied that I kept things simple and neutral. I actually wore this set out and about today with a white t-shirt and brown pants. Very casual and comfortable. Successful test drive.

AJE team, thank you for your inspiring blog, and thanks again, Diana, for sharing one of your wonderful pendants with me. To see other unique creations using these components, please join the blog hop! (If you click on the blog links below and receive a message that the post doesn't exist, just click on the blog HOME button or link to get to the reveal post.)

Cindy Martin-Shaw - You are here!

AJE Team

Friday, August 21, 2015

We're All Ears :: August Reveal

This month's Earrings Everyday inspiration is otherworldly Antelope Canyon.  Located in northern Arizona on the Navajo Reservation, it can only be accessed by licensed tours with a guide and a permit. Our blog hostess, Erin's lyrical description in this post inspired this found poem. The poetic language is Erin's, rearranged into a poetic format by me.

The Inpiration

Slot canyons
chasms eroded over eons
by wind and rain
and raging floods

liquid gold
magical shafts of light
secret chambers of canyons

undulating sandstone walls
moving curves
like pulled and stretched taffy 
playing with depth perception
fantastic living sculptures
shifting and changing with time

Twisting and turning
corridors of light
beckoning discovery 
what mystery lies beyond
the next terra cotta bend

revered as sacred ground
by native peoples
an aura of hallowed ground
in these caverns
of vaulted rooms
in a grand cathedral

sandy rock rolls and swells
like waves on a molten lava sea
an otherworldly feeling
echoes keep us
hushed in wonder
by awe-inspiring vistas

a restful, meditative place
full of energy
spellbinding at every turn

~ Words by Erin Prais-Hintz
Rearranged by Cindy Martin-Shaw

(I always loved the teaching middle-schoolers how to write found poems in my middle-school English class.) 

The Earrings

It's all about stone, a wondrous gift of the earth. I find stones mesmerizing, and these photos of slot canyons are the ultimate in stone beauty.  I knew right away the material I wanted to use in this challenge, but executing my vision proved to be a harder aspect of this project. 

Hidden away safely in my workroom hutch cabinet is a treasure box of matched stone pairs that have been waiting for just the right moment to shine in the spotlight. My cousin Kathie went to the Bead & Button Show in Philadelphia last June and discovered a lapidary vendor specializing in matched pair gemstones. Serindipitously, I had been eyeing and drooling over such stones on-line. After exchanging dozens of texts of stone photos and making difficult, yet exciting, choices, my stones arrived in the mail. Like a child at Christmas, I unwrapped each set of stones gleefully and swiftly realized that these beauties would become items to hoard. I loved every single one of them; how could I ever part with them? So there they sat, tucked away, for months.  . . 

. . . nestled in their little boxes


. . . all shapes, sizes, and colors

. . . waiting for inspiration to hit

. . . and then this challenge was posted. Thank you, Erin, for inspiring me to take the plunge with my stash.

Designing with these stones presented interesting challenges. I decided to just let the stones speak to me. One pair of jasper stones stood out from the rest, and they chose these rustic, old, brick red trade beads (from Happy Mango Beads), turquoise, and copper to join them.

In experimenting with how to wrap these stones, I wasted a lot of copper wire but finally got things right. After they were wrapped and the copper was oxidized, they looked just okay . . . too plain. I decided to add a little splash of color and soft texture by wrapping and knotting some sage-colored waxed linen. 

Now they felt complete. I love the swirls of color in the stone, like the sandstones of the canyon. 

I usually make several pairs of earrings for these challenges, but this pair took all of my energy, and I am very pleased with them. To see other unique interpretations of Antelope Canyon, please visit the Earrings Everyday post HERE

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Beach Bracelets: The New Generation

These bracelets have become an addiction! Originally made with natural hemp, I am now experimenting with colored hemp and colored cotton cording. Playing with colors has now become an exciting new pastime. 

Seaside Sunset

The oranges, yellows, and blues of the sunset inspired this new beach bracelet. I threw some greens in there to represent the forested coastal mountains (and the green flash I hope to see on the horizon someday). The button even resembles the sun. I am enjoying working with this cotton cord, which is soft to the touch and knots very nicely. 

Going Green

In honor of my once-green grass that is now dry, brown, and brittle and the once-green hillside behind us that is now treeless, brown, and scarred by clearcuts. Rain, please pay us a kind visit. (And timber companies, leave our forests alone!)

 Blue Skies, Blue Water

Sunset Pinks and Purples 

This Summer of Sun


Friday, August 14, 2015

Historical Mystery . . . Solved!

Gotta love rummage sales! Recently, I purchased a strand of beads at the local Garibaldi Maritime Museum rummage sale and was absolutely stymied by its purpose. Was this a necklace? Who would have worn it? Why were there extra strands hanging off the sides? What was the purpose of the glassed frame? What kind of beads were these? How old was it? It just made no sense. The museum curator had no idea; the strand had been in the museum attic for years.

I posed this mystery to the Creative Bead Chat Facebook group. All day long, member's comments entertained me, as I hopped from website to website. The key elements that led to the discovery of its purpose were that there were 108 beads - four sections of exactly 27 beads, like a mala or Buddhist prayer beads. 

The first revealing webpage was Here I discovered that my piece is a Chinese Court Necklace. The Court Necklace was part of a uniform that denoted rank and position. The materials, colors, and design were strictly defined by rank and proximity to the Royal Family. 

* Picture from:

Also pictured on this page was a necklace like mine!

After corresponding with an authority from this website, I learned that my necklace is a late 'low rank' court necklace. Because it is in pretty rough shape, there isn't a lot of value in it other than
for 'parts' for someone who is doing a reconstruction... or having a piece of history. Its value for me is in holding a piece of history in my hands, imagining it in use, and just feeling the energy from it. 

I did learn that I should keep the silk cord that connects the beads intact. The silk cord and the connectors are the most valuable parts, and it is not often that the silk tram is found intact. 

Questions still plague me. What is the glassed frame piece? Are the green beads glass? Are the clear beads original? And most of all . . . where did this come from? Who owned it? 

* Update

TodayI took my necklace with me to the Seaside Gem and Mineral Show. Surely someone there could help to identify the beads. I had a wonderful experience with my favorite bead vendors, Karmic Beads and Gems. We all enjoyed the energy of this necklace, and I discovered that the gemstones are amber (or copal), flourite, and quartz. Pretty cool!

A fabulous article about court necklaces was published in this article from the Bead Society of Northern California. Fascinating!

This adventure has been like one of those Antique Roadshow moments. Quite exciting. I never knew these necklaces existed before embarking on this adventure, and I really enjoyed connecting with cool people that love beads as much as I do. Such a fun time!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Beach Bracelets: The Journey

My beach bracelets are definitely a keeper.  It's been quite a journey making this line of bracelets. 

The Original Prototype
These simple bracelets, quick and fun to make with simple knotting, had a tendency to stretch out and loosen. I learned to make them snug-fitting to begin with.

The Sturdy Version

Hoping to create a version of the original prototype that would not stretch out so easily, I progressed to woven bracelets. Made with six strands and a weaving strand, these bracelets were much more time-consuming to make but way sturdier. They definitely hold their shape nicely over time.

My first woven band: 

The next experiment: loved the beachy blues!

Technique mastered: This style is super tight and sturdy. Later after a bit of wear, I added glue to the tail ends to prevent this fraying.

Hitting my stride: playing with color

A productive day on the beach a couple of days ago . . . made this bracelet. Great way to spend three hours! Pretty sure there are actual grains of sand in this one (a true beach bracelet), as the winds were high, and I was being sandblasted. Love these playful colors!


I have field (or rather, beach) tested my own beach bracelet for weeks now, and I am pleased with the way it wears. Initially stiff, it gets comfortably soft and homey. I wear mine every day!

Getting Orders 

At a local restaurant the other day, our server noticed my bracelet and expressed an interest in one. I gave her my business card.

After posting a photo on Facebook, I just received an order from a friend for three more bracelets -   one in beachy light blue and seafoam green . . . 

. . . and two in Seahawk colors.

Playing with copper . . .