Friday, January 31, 2014

An Easy Way to Use Up Leftover Beads

What do you do with leftover beads? I usually toss them into a jar and wait until I've accumulated several from various projects. Then I turn them into the easiest-to-make necklace ever. The good thing about this hoop type of necklace is that you only need a handful of beads, not hundreds of them, to make something really attractive. Of course, the beads you use don't have to be leftovers. Any beads from your stash will work just as well.

The basis for this piece is a simple hoop-style wire choker with a removable ball on one end and a curved hook at the other. You can buy them in different finishes from mail order sources like Fire Mountain, at arts and crafts stores and at bead stores. At just a few dollars apiece, they're inexpensive and -- even better -- no additional findings are needed. It's self-closing so you won't need so much as a clasp nor even a jump ring. The rigid hoop comes pre-formed so there's no need to shape the wire, and the ball end is included. And if those pluses weren't enough, the entire necklace takes less than ten minutes to assemble!

A super simple necklace made in minutes from left over beads.

The choker above is made from eight tube style paper beads, five 8mm round glass beads, four 8mm porcelain beads, 16 metal rondelles, and two filigree bead caps. The paper beads were extras from another necklace project, and the blue and white porcelain beads were remnants of an earring-making session from long ago. The bead caps weren't strictly necessary but I used them because I liked the effect and happened to have two on hand that fit the glass beads.

When choosing beads for this style of necklace there are a few things to keep in mind:

The holes in the beads must be large enough to accommodate the gauge of the wire hoop. The beads need to be able to move easily along the wire without getting hung up. Have a bead reamer on hand to smooth the occasional burr.

The length of the bead matters. Because the wire hoop is rigid, you'll need to use shorter beads that fit snugly against the curve of the hoop. (In other words, 40mm hairpipes won't work!) The paper beads I used on my necklace are 3/4 inch in length, which was about the maximum length the hoop could accommodate.You'll know right away if a bead is too long. It will jam when you try to slide it onto the wire.

This type of project is very adaptable. It lends itself to however many beads you have available. You can use a single focal bead, fill a portion of the hoop with beads as I've done, or fill every inch of the hoop with beads. Any stopping point is aesthetically pleasing. As long as the beads look good together you can't go wrong.

Expect your creation to draw admiring comments whenever you wear it. For it certainly will draw attention. No one has to know it was made of leftovers or that it was created in less time than it takes to microwave a TV dinner. Just bask in the compliments and smile. If you don't tell, I won't either!

 Text and image ©2014 Lynn Edwards

Monday, January 27, 2014

Designing Handmade Jewelry Q & A

Many people are curious about the design process when it comes to making handmade, one of a kind pieces of jewelry. Designing handmade jewelry calls for a series of carefully considered decisions on the part of the artist along with a dose of imagination and a finely tuned aesthetic sense. Recently I was asked a series of questions about how I design my necklace and pendant sets. I share the discussion with you to give you a glimpse into the thought processes and techniques I use to make my handmade jewelry pieces.

Q: Which design comes first -- the necklace or the pendant?
A: Sometimes the necklace is designed around the pendant. Other times the pendant is created after the necklace is designed. No matter which sequence is used, I always try to unite them using elements such as color, shape, texture, theme and so on.

Q: Where do you get your inspiration? Can you give an example?
A: This winter's extremely cold weather has had me dreaming of summer. I wanted to make a jewelry set that would help chase away the winter blues. To me sunflowers are the very symbol of summer and all the good things that come with it like warmth, long days, wearing flip-flops, growing a garden... With those things in mind I decided to pull out some sunflower-themed fabric beads I'd made and got to work.

The sunflower necklace and pendant on my work table

Q: So in this case the beads were made first?
A: Yes. Actually I had made them last year but didn't have anything specific in mind for them at the time, so I stored them away until the right project came along. In this case I let their design and colors guide the subsequent design of the pendant.

Q: What did the beads look like?
A: Each bead has yellow-gold petals on a rich cobalt blue background, with warm brown in the flowers' centers. To repeat those three colors in the construction of the necklace I used brown glass pearls, golden yellow glass pearl ovals, and cobalt blue glass tubes. Also pale gold seed beads for spacers. The fabric beads had a bit of green and light purple in them, too, but I chose not to repeat those colors anywhere else in the necklace.

Q: Why not pick up the green and light purple?
A:  Designing a piece of jewelry is a lot like painting a canvas. Both benefit from a cohesive color scheme. Limiting my colors to golden yellow, warm brown and cobalt blue gives the piece a unified appearance. I love green and purple, but in this case I felt limiting the palette to just three colors would result in a better looking piece. The bold designs on the beads didn't need competition from additional colors. I tend to believe "less is more."

Q:What about the clasp? What color is the metal?
A: That was an easy decision. It couldn't be anything but gold!

Q: And what about the pendant? What does it look like and what process did you use to make it?
A: Naturally I wanted a sunflower design on the pendant to echo the sunflowers on the fabric beads. In my paper stash there was a vintage botanical illustration that was perfect. Originally it had been a floral motif on a paper napkin. After separating out the paper layers, I had encased the layer with the illustration in clear acrylic medium. That strengthened it and gave it an interesting, slightly pebbly texture. The acrylic medium had really brought out the flower's colors so it was a good partner for the design on the beads.

The design on the pendant originally was a paper napkin.

Q: How did you turn a piece of paper napkin into a pendant?
A: I decoupaged it onto a piece of Stampbord. Stampbord is a really cool product made by Ampersand. It can be stamped, painted, decoupaged, collaged, drawn on...the techniques and media you can use on it are almost unlimited. For the necklace, I started by painting the edges and back of the Stampbord with two coats of metallic gold acrylic paint. When the paint was completely dry, I cut out and decoupaged the botanical illustration to the front. Then I let it dry overnight. The next day I brushed on a clear acrylic sealer and let that dry several more hours. The last step was varnishing it and attaching the bail.

Q:What kind of bail did you use?
A: I used a simple but elegant gold plated bail. I centered the bail on the top edge of the pendant, and used E6000 jewelry glue to attach it. I let the pendant sit undisturbed for 24 hours to make sure the glue was completely cured, then inserted it into the focal positionas I strung the beads.

Q: Do most designers follow a similar process when creating pieces of jewelry?
A: I imagine there are as many different approaches to design as there are designers. This is just the way I tend to do things. My way is not the only way by any means.

Q: Do you think you accomplished what you set out to do -- make a piece of jewelry that reminds you of summertime?
A: I do. Whenever I look at this piece, it brings to mind gardens in bloom and afternoons on the porch drinking ice tea. I just love sunflowers! I'm thinking I might plant some this year in front of my studio.

Text and images ©2014 Lynn Edwards

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Elements and Principles of Design, Revisited.

Came across a very useful book recently that's just too good to keep its title a secret. It's Design Basics (Fourth Edition) by David A. Lauer and Stephen Pentak (Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1995). A textbook that "demystifies the elements, principles and processes of design," it certainly delivers on its promise. The prose is clear and easy to understand, and the authors include plenty of examples and images to illustrate each point covered.

Don't let the fact that it's an older textbook put you off. This book is anything but dry and dull. Matter of fact, it's great fun to read while explaining in plain English (no woo-woo!) what the elements and principles are all about.

As a working artist I've read many books on the elements and principles of design and their application in the making of art. None have been as helpful as Design Basics. I just wish I had read it years ago when I was first learning to paint. Heck, it probably would have cut my learning curve in half.

So if you struggle with composition, are looking to improve your work, or have always found this subject boring, Design Basics is the book for you. And me. The copy I have is borrowed, so I'll have to return it, but I'll be buying one for myself. Soon!

©2014 Lynn Edwards

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

How to Make Zentangle Inspired Paper Beads

If, like me, you love Zentangles, why not wear jewelry that reflects that passion? Making beads like these is very relaxing and lots of fun.

It Starts with Doodling...

Zentangle art is a form of doodling that produces repetitive patterns. First introduced by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas, Zentangles have been embraced by artists all over the world as a wonderful outlet for their creative energies. I just love making Zentangle style art. I could doodle Zentangle forms all day long. It's very meditative and calming. When it occurred to me that applying my doodled patterns to paper beads would result in eye catching jewelry, I could hardly wait to try it. So I got busy, and here's the result:

Love those crisp black and white patterns!

How to make them:

1. To make the doodles I used a black permanent fine tip artist's pen. (Mine was a Pitt Artist's Pen.) I drew my designs onto text weight white paper, then cut the paper into 1/2" wide strips. Then I glued them to rolled paper bases made from acid free card stock.

2. To make the defining black edges I used a small rigger brush and Carbon Black fluid acrylic. (Some folks dip their bead ends in paint but I find hand painting them to be less nerve wracking. Weird, I know.)

3. The final step was sealing each bead with ModPodge, followed by gloss varnish once the ModPodge was thoroughly dry.

Now the little rascals are sitting on my work table awaiting transformation into a finished piece of jewelry. Check back next week to see how it turns out. I'll also be posting a variation on this concept with a boho/tribal look!

Text and image ©2014 Lynn Edwards

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Making an Asian Style Paper Bead

Recently I gave myself a challenge: find ways to make unusual paper beads. Emphasis on unusual. This is how my mind works. Take a good idea and try to make it better. In this case I was after bead designs that were out of the ordinary.

After playing around with various concepts, I came up with some beads that don't look much like standard paper beads, which are often rolled from magazine photos or calendar images cut into elongated triangles. Not that there's anything wrong with beads made that way. Heck, one of my very favorite necklaces is constructed with beads made from a photo from an art magazine. I wear it proudly and often. It never fails to elicit oohs and aahs.

But I wanted to come up with beads whose construction and visual appearance were altogether different from the much-loved rolled paper style. Here's the first of my many experiments:

About 3/4 " in length, this Asian themed bead features tiny calligraphic symbols and floral Origami paper.

Asian Style Beads

This bead was the first design I came up with. A vintage "found" Japanese engineering manual whose pages were filled with tiny calligraphic symbols inspired the Asian motif. Floral-themed Origami paper in red, green and gold made the perfect compliment.

Here's how I made it:

1. First I made a rolled paper cylinder out of black acid free card stock to serve as the base.

2. Next I cut a strip of paper from the engineering manual. The calligraphy symbols had been printed in vertical, columnar format. I was careful to cut so all of the calligraphy remained intact.

3. After determining the length of the calligraphy strip needed to go around the base, I marked the dimensions in pencil and cut two out.

 4. Using Weldbond glue, I glued on the calligraphy paper over the black base, placing the calligraphy paper flush with the ends. (Using ModPodge as the glue would have been ok, too.)

5. I then measured and cut a length of Origami paper and glued it between the calligraphy papers. I left just a tiny bit of the black base showing in between the paper strips for interest.

6. After the glue was completely dry, I encased my Asian themed bead in gloss finish ModPodge, then applied acrylic gloss varnish.

I really liked the way this design turned out so I made up several more beads to use them in a necklace. At a local arts and crafts store I found a set of red and black round glass beads that look great with the paper beads. Their shape reminds me of Japanese paper lanterns. Together they'll make a beautiful pairing that will look stunning worn with a black, red or ivory color sweater or top.

These paper beads are considerably more time consuming to make but I think the effort is worth it.

I'll be using this design concept in future projects because it lends itself to endless variations. In my next post, though, I'll be featuring a second bead design that's sure to get your creative energy going as it inspires you to pick up your pen or brush. Intrigued? Watch for it here on the blog next week.

Text and image ©2014 Lynn Edwards