July 23, 2012

Finding Beads and Jewelry Components at the Local Swap Meet

My parents go to the swap meet at the former Saugus Speedway every Sunday.  But "you have to go early to get anything good" according to my Dad.  I only go with them every few weeks.  

For those of you who don't know what a swap meet is, it's the same as a flea market.  This one has lots of people who peddle odds and ends (junk) as opposed to retail type of items.

Normally, I don't have anything in particular that I'm looking for, aside from spending time with my parents.  But this time, I had a mission!

My Swap Meet "Mission"

I've always loved rosaries.  I decided I was interested in finding rosary components as well as other devotional items, like religious medals.  When you have a mission at the swap meet, it becomes much more exciting.  Suddenly, it turns into a treasure hunt!  My mother is a natural bargain hunter, so I think this got her adrenalin going too.

The first items I purchase are these cross charms and religious medals.  All are sterling silver, some have cubic zirconia.  I'm sure they were all significantly cheaper than I could have bought them online.

There are several more than the ones pictured here, but I'd like to save something to post another day.  

One very unusual item is the pendant centered between the two crosses.  It is a Canadian coin that has been cut into a crescent shape and then engraved to say 'Aggie'.  You can see the coin on the other side (which I did not take a picture of!).  I'm not sure what I'll actually do with it, but it was so unusual and pretty that I had no problem spending $1 for it.  I guess if I find a Canadian who went to Texas A&M (their team athletics nickname is the Aggies), I'll be able to sell it!  I believe it is silver, just like older US quarters and dimes are.

Other Bead Treasures: African Trade Beads

In addition to the silver charms, I couldn't pass up several strands of African trade beads.  I got four strands, 2 with large beads that are about 36 inches long and 2 with small beads that I think are a little shorter.
All of the glass beads have terrific color. This is something I was considering buying recently - and even had them in my cart at FMG.  Luckily, they ended up selling out of the large ones.  I'm glad, because I got all of these for $3, and I know they were more per strand at FMG.

I also bought some jewelry that had components that I thought were perfect for re-use.  I've already started tearing those apart and re-assembling them.  I'll post before and after pictures later this week.

July 19, 2012

Herringbone Wrapped Gemstone Rings

Another trip, another style of ring.  This weekend, I combined two of my longtime favorite things: making gemstone rings combined with herringbone weave.  

The picture above shows some of my experiments.  I tried using silver wire with round smooth beads like  the rhodonite one on the left, and with round faceted beads like the garnet ring on the far right.  It may be hard to see, but I also wrapped the wire around the shank on the garnet one.  I wanted to see if it made a difference having a more substantial shank on the ring.  My verdict - it didn't make much of a difference in the comfort or wearability of the ring.

 I also made rings using flat stones with gold filled wire.  The one on the left has a 10mm brown striated botswana agate faceted coin.  

My favorite one thought has a hexagon shaped aventurine stone.  I have been wearing it constantly since I made it.

I used 20g wire for the ring shank and I think it was 24g wire for the herringbone weave. 

Making the ring size adjustable

As you can see from the picture, I experimented with making the rings adjustable by overlapping the wire in the back and finishing the ends with a flattened paddle.  The paddle is filed smooth so it does not dig in or irritate in any way.  I made the paddle using the distal end cutters I got from the orthodontist.

I like that I can wear the ring on multiple fingers.  I made all of the rings except the one with the coiled shank adjustable.  I will definitely make more of these in the future.  I am even considering making these my first 'for sale' items in my etsy store.

July 16, 2012

New Jewelry Supply Grab Bag from Wired Up Beads

Surprise!  More jewelry making goodies in the mail.  And they really were a surprise again.  

Wired Up Beads has been offering weekly grab bags of jewelry goodies for the summer.  They go on sale on Mondays at 10:30 am Central time and are limited in quantity.  I purchased one of the week 3 grab bags.  The bags are guaranteed to have a retail price of at least $75 and cost $30 plus shipping.  So, let's examine what I got - shall we?

Kumihimo Braiding Grab Bag

This week's theme was obviously Kumihimo Braiding - something I know nothing about - but that in itself is always of interest to me.  I love new things.

The kit contains:
  • 1 Beadsmith Kumihimo Braiding Disk (approx value $9)
  • 1 spool grey S-Lon cord (approx value $5)
  • 2 hanks of czech seed beads in blue and violet - 12 strands each (approx value $5?)
  • 2 bundles kumihimo fiber (approx value $15?)
  • 1 fabulously gorgeous glass focal bead, signed A Ray, dated 1/08 (approx value $35?)
  • a gift of baby wubbers pliers

The Glass Focal Bead is Amazing!!

To be honest - some of these items I have no idea on their value.  I don't buy hanks of seed beads.  I'd probably never buy a glass focal and pay $30 - but having spent $10 on lampwork focal beads no where near as lovely or large - I'm pretty sure this would be very expensive.  It is signed and dated, so it is obviously an art bead and the star of this goody bag.  I am very happy to own it and the entire kumihimo kit.  

The only thing I wish was included in this kit are the no tangle thread bobbins that I found on Wired Up Beads website.  If they were included, I would be ready to start trying my hand and braiding.  They aren't very expensive... but it is what it is.

Would I buy another one of these surprise packages?  Absolutely - I already did!!  So, you can look forward to a review of week four's goodies next week.

Here's the description from their website:  Week Four's limited edition offering is a stunning sparkler, guaranteed to add some bling to your designs.  This week will include lots of Swarovski elements, seed beads, a variety of textiles and a special sterling silver accent piece.

I don't normally use much Swarovski, seed beads or textiles - so this is another chance to expand my boundaries.  I guess the projects are backing up now. 

July 10, 2012

Creative Inspiration: Where does yours come from?

Today started like any other work day.  I vow to get as much done as possible and stay focused.  But then the conference calls start...and I get a little antsy.  After all, I know what I think we're going to do for this project - it's just a matter of getting everyone else on board and letting the process work it's way through.  During the conference call, I am sorting the findings from the Boss Bead Bag I purchased from FMG.  It's a mindless job - and no one knows what I'm doing since we're all on the phone.

From Disappointment to Delight

At first, I was a little disappointed with my purchase of the grab bag of jewelry goodies .  It was interesting, but not exciting. My daughter had already sorted it for me into categories (beads, gold findings, silver findings, gemstones).  Now, I am doing a second sort - bead caps, beads, clasps, charms etc. And I start getting excited at finding things that I've never seen before, things that I would never usually buy - even things that I'm not sure what they are.  And cool finishes that I've never used before - like gunmetal.  And so, the creative juices start flowing and the internet searching begins.

From Mult-Tasking to All-Out Procrastination

Three conference calls later - it's 'me' time.  I'm done sorting and I need to indulge myself in some of my interests.  I start posting on my personal facebook page - reading inspiration from my friends on my jewelry facebook page and clicking links.  Somehow I find myself on the American Craft Council  website reading an article on creativity titled Nothing Comes From Nowhere.  It is a very interesting article and I recommend you read it.  

From here - I wanted more information on the author and his ideas on creativity.  I found his book...

Being Creative: Steal Like An Artist

The book Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative sounded like it was for me - until I read the reviews on Amazon (my favorite part of Amazon - aside from their 'look inside this book' feature).  The reviews are mixed (really good and not so great) - but since I hate to buy books that I only read for one hour - I decided it wasn't for me.

But I was still interested his ideas on creativity, so I went on a hunt for the original blog post that is referred to in the American Craft Council article.  I was really enjoying reading it until... BAM! it was cut off and I was left with marketing for the book.  Like all good things - why give it away for free, when you can make a few bucks on the idea.

Darn - that left me with a bad taste and I was no longer loving Austin Kleon.  But - I really wanted more on his ideas.  Because everything I read was resonating with me.

For example, I'm not against the idea of stealing creative ideas.  I think we all do it - whether we admit to it or not.  I do have an issue with the outright copying of ideas, however.  The artistic knack (or gift) is for finding what speaks to you in someone else's work (or in nature, etc)  - and making it part of your inspiration.

Speaking about being creative

Next, I found this video of Austin Kleon on YouTube and I fell in love again.  I love a good speaker - even though I normally hate watching videos on the computer.  So much of what I read and was seeing is resonating with me.  After all, right at this moment, I am procrastinating doing my 'real' work to research doing what I love - creating.  (yeah - I read that idea somewhere along this search - but can't remember where, but the idea that things that you do while you procrastinate are the things you really love to do was stolen from Austin Kleon).  The video is eleven minutes long - but I think it was worth it.  (You can fold the laundry while you watch if you need to multi-task).

After the video, I still want more information, so I search - and I eventually end up at the Steal Like An Artist Blogger Kit.  It's great when someone realizes they can build a fan base when they provide information that you can use to promote them.

Read the ten tips to creativity and let me know what you  think

And we are almost at the end of my creativity ramble and procrastination.  I hope these creativity tips resonate with you.  And if they do, indulge in reading one more poster on the difference between good theft vs. bad theft.

Steal Like An Artist - Promotional Poster

Good Theft vs. Bad Theft

Steal Like An Artist - Good theft vs. Bad Theft Poster

And now - I really need to get back to work!!

July 07, 2012

Silver Spiral Ring with Smoky Quartz

Youth Baseball = LOTS of time to make jewelry

If someone were to compare watching baseball to watching paint dry, I wouldn't be surprised.  It is a great sport, but pretty slow.  A lot of practice pitches, practice swings, balls and strikes and a few hits and runs here and there.  Not much activity when you consider the game takes about 2 hours. 

I always bring a huge (heavy) bag filled with jewelry supplies and tools.  Thank goodness I finally found a lightweight ring mandrel - the steel one combined with all the beads and wires was killing my back.

Silver Spiral Ring with Smoky Quartz

I have been wanting to make this ring design ever since I saw it in the book Beautiful Wire Jewelry for Beaders by Irena Miech. Normally, I try to follow book instructions precisely but, in this case, I didn't.  There is more information on why in my Jewelry Book Review blog.

To make this spiral ring, I used 16g sterling silver wire for the shank and 24g wire to wrap the stone, a smoky quartz, to the ring shank.  I tried several different techniques to attach the stone, but found it was easiest to secure the stone tightly if the wire goes under the spiral on each side (enlarge the first picture and you should be able to see what I mean).  Then I made two wraps on each side of the wire that secures the stone.  The wire crosses over itself inside the ring shank resulting in a coil that stays secure.

The ring was not very comfortable at first (probably due to the shank width), but after wearing it a little while, it feels fabulous.  I usually wear the ring on my middle finger.

I made several variations for all of my friends.  I made a gold ring that has a straight ring shank in the back.  That seems to work better for someone who is more petite.  It has a turquoise stone.  I also made a silver ring just like this one with a turquoise stone.

And then I lost my Mojo...

Mojo is your magic.  These rings were flying off my pliers and mandrel in perfect shape until I tried to make one with a copper shank and gold wire.  At first, I never worried about making the spirals even, they just were.  The rings sizes either came out right, or I adjusted the bends in the back of the shank.  

It was all so easy until I tried using the copper wire.  I think I have at least four half finished rings in copper.  Once I got the ring shank right, the gold wire I was using to secure the stone broke during the wrapping process.  I'll try copper again (after I get my mojo back!)

July 05, 2012

Ahhhhh, Vacation! (and souvenir beads)

The family and I took a quick trip to Arizona for my son to play baseball.  I can't imagine many places hotter than Phoenix in July, but here we are and he has been playing baseball in 110 degrees everyday.  (and yes, it's a dry heat - except when it's humid as all get-out and raining - which describes yesterday and today).

A Silver Lining in Every Cloud (And Lots of Turquoise)

Maybe not a silver lining, but a silver setting - with lots of turquoise.  It was extremely difficult to fit in bead shopping between running to the baseball fields, carting around a load of 14 year-olds for food and entertainment - but yes - I managed to squeeze it in.

The store itself was not very exciting, but I found turquoise strands (real turquoise) for $25 per pound.  I figured it would be wrong of me to drag my fellow baseball Mom's and our daughters (who were double buckled in the back of a rented Audi) to a bead store and not buy anything - so a pound of turquoise strands are now mine.  I also purchased a couple of strands of shell beads.

Do you have any idea how many strands of 16 inch beads are in a pound of turquoise?  I do - it's about 13.  Oddly enough - I wish I had purchased more.  Don't ask -