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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Elena: Victorian Style Black and Crimson Necklace

I like Victorian and Edwardian styled things.  You know this.  I need not tarry with my explanations simply to placate your simpering for much more than I am properly able to give.  And so, I shall be cruel and leave you cold and wanting. 

I can't even read that with a straight face.  Too serious.

Anyway, I decided to go ahead and finish this piece.  I've been prodding at it off and on for the past few weeks.  The findings I used for it are a higher gauge than I usually use because of the wonderful, GLORIOUS weight of the pendant and links. 

However thick you think those links and such are, they're probably thicker

I love a heavy necklace.  Weight is power!  Weight is Strength!  Weight is Security!

I wish I could get better photos of it, but until I can get proper lighting and maybe a model, you'll have to settle for this..

Monday, April 28, 2014

A Health Update

I'm sure you've noticed how more of my posts have steadily become less about beaded chain, wire work and fancy handmade pendants and more about simpler stringing projects.  It's for a reason, you know. 

If I don't have a nice, flowery descriptions for later pieces, do not be surprised.  I don't feel like typing.  My hands have been shaky and I've been in an unusual amount of pain recently.  Don't be alarmed.  It's like this for me rather often, what with the whole "Idiopathic Neuropathy" aka "It looks like you have MS, but we're going to wait until it gets worse before doing anything" business.

Thankfully, I'm proactive when I'm feeling well AND optimistic about the future.  If I didn't try to maintain over a month's worth of buffer while I was able, there would have been no posts for the last several weeks. 

With my buffer running out and my ability to produce or even plan more imaginative pieces, don't be surprised if you see new versions of the same designs, random blurbs or reviews about movies, or no posts at all.  I'm going to do my best to continue crafting, but it will be a bit more difficult.

That is all.  Now let me go crawl back under blanket.  I'll remain cautiously optimistic from there.

Friday, April 25, 2014

More Murano Glass

I found some beads hiding out in a random tin a few days ago and I decided that I'd make them into something.  They had a blue to green gradient with a little spiral in the center.  I can't, for the life of me, remember where I got them.  But they were pretty.  I'm sure I got them on sale...somewhere.

There weren't a whole lot of them, just 5, so I worked them up into a quick, simple bracelet.  They remind me of swirling water.  Or perhaps swirling algae.  Or both.

I spaced the big murano glass beads with Czech glass beads that shared some properties in common with them- the blue to green gradient.  I only had a few of these left over from a few previous projects, so this was the perfect way to finally get rid of them for good.  I used a few pale green swarovski crystals that I got in one of those assortment auctions and pulled the design together.

Though this design includes multicolored beads, I had no trouble pulling it together.  It worked up quickly and creates something fun and flirty without too much effort.  All you need is some basic stringing techniques to pull this one off and you're good to go!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Enter the Multiverse: Using Multicolored and Iridescent Beads

Many people find it challenging to work with muti-colored beads.  They are hard to color match, hard to match to metals, and the array of different colors can make it difficult for artists to settle on a single color scheme.  They are for beaders and crafters what Zebra are to lions.  Confusing.

More often than not, shimmery, multicolored beads are left in the clearance sections, unclaimed.  But, as artists, we shouldn't let something like color and finishing stop us from using them.  A multi-colored bead isn't difficult or directionless and we don't need Jesse James to tell us how to pair them.  We just need a few simple steps to pull us out of the boring monotony that causes fear of the multicolored.

Focus Your Elements:
You can tailor your designs by focusing on one or two colors in the bead and expanding it into other parts of whatever piece you're making.  You can take a look at my old artwork to see how this works successfully.

Forget about Matching:
It's so socially engrained in us that we need to match, that we tend to focus on it without realizing it.  Always match; Don't clash.  Your parents told you that you couldn't wear pink, purple and turquoise when you were little.  Forget what they said.  They can't tell you how to pair your beads, fabrics or clothes.

Look to Mother Nature:
Many artists take inspiration from nature.  When you think nature, you think green, brown, red, orange, blue.  Basic primary colors that fit only with their landscape.  We often picture mother nature as some kind of middle-aged woman.  SHE IS NOT.  Mother Nature isn't dull, consistent or subdued.  SHE IS A HARAJUKU DRAG QUEEN.
Fabulous Hunty!
Look at the oceans, rainforests, flowers, African wildlife, and the insect world.
Check the shades of gray, turquoise, yellow, royal blue, black, green AND red.

And color isn't limited to just bugs and slugs.  Take a look at this Mandril.  That's sort of related to humans...distantly.  So, if this primate can wear a bunch of colors, so can we.
I see purple, pink, blue, red, yellow, cream, brown, black and white...

That's about all you need to do to work with multi-colored beads and findings.  Let go of your conventions and look to some new things for inspiration.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Skincare: Argon Shower Gel

I don't know about any of you, but I have weird skin.   I drink water, eat fruit and all that to promote healthy skin, but no matter what I do, there's always persistent dryness and random acne breakouts.  Since I was old enough to recognize that my skin wasn't perfect, I've employed an arsenal of skincare products to slather on and scrub off.

Recently, whilst in Marshall's I spied some Argan oil skincare products.  I've had great success with using Argan oil in my dry hair and on my sensitive scalp, so I thought that trying it in skincare products would probably be a great idea.  It makes my hair bouncy and shiny, so why wouldn't it make my skin silky smooth?

I tried Phytorelax Laboratories Olio di Argan bath and shower gel. 

Made in Italia.  So fancy
It was readily available at Marshall's for less than the usual $26 and looked fancy.  The 16.9 ounce bottle cost a total of $6 bucks.  That's no more than my usual, non-luxury shower gel (that's going to be reformulated because it has those fish-poisoning plastic beads in it).

Here's my assessment of this product.

An important property is scent.  They are supposed to make you CLEAN and smell nice.  It's their primary purpose.  We wouldn't make so many kinds if that's not what they were supposed to do.  Well, the scent of Phytorelax's shower gel isn't anything special.  It isn't overpowering or especially fragrant.  It smells like chrysanthemums, so when you use it, you literally smell as fresh as a daisy.  That's nice.

As far as shower gel textures go, this one was unexpectedly thin.  It was surprisingly watery for something so luxurious.  The lather wasn't overwhelming either.  In fact, it barely lathered up at all.  However, this is a good thing.  Things that work into a luxurious lather usually have TONS of salts and dry your skin in the worst way.  Phytorelax's formula has a lot of argan oil and plant extracts instead.  It's got tons of plant acids included as well, so it's like a mild chemical peel on top of being nourishing.

Effects and experience:
I followed my usual shower and moisturizing rituals with this shower gel.  After the first wash, I noted that it literally left me squeaky clean.  Still, there was no real change in the texture of my skin.  At least, I didn't notice it right away.  I found that my skin wasn't as itchy as it usually is.  After the third use, I noticed that some of my eczema patches started to flake off.  The resulting dark marks weren't as bad as they usually are, either.  I found that my skin didn't want as much moisturizer as it usually does and it didn't feel tight or itchy at any point in the day. 

Final Imprission:
This product will leave your skin cleansed and refreshed with just a hint of fragrance and extra moisture.  It doesn't smother your skin with harsh chemicals, salts or silicones.  That limits the amount of irritation you'll suffer later.  While I love how the product made my skin behave and feel after a few washes, I really wish there was a bit of exfoliant in it so I could use it on my feet like I use my regular shower gel.  I'm cautious to complain about it because it did a great job with handling my skin issues, despite not having all the 'perks' my old shower gel has.  I think I'll try tweaking it a bit with some ground avocado seed to increase it's exfoliating power in the future.  We'll see how that goes. 
Until then, give it a try.  You might like it.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Farore's Wind

Sometimes I surprise myself.  I surprised myself with this particular Legend of Zelda piece.  You see, mentally, I associate wind with the color blue, because of the sky.  Well, in the Zeldaverse, the Wind is associated with Farore, who rules over courage and... I'm going to stop before I go into a big tirade about the various mythology in the franchise.  ANYWAY, the wind is associated with the color GREEN.

It's the color of life, wholesomeness, and fresh growing things.  That's part of the reason the color's so closely associated with Link.  In every incarnation he starts from humble beginnings, either he is alone in a forest, orphaned, or otherwise overlooked because he's not good at anything.  But that little guy's got FIGHT in him.

Like the wind and green growing things, I guess.  Constantly pushing against things, slowly eroding them, even if at first they seem immovable.

It was actually hard to put this bracelet to
gether and even now, I'm not sure about it's name.  It feels more masculine and harsh than what I've always pictured for Farore's Wind.  It feels a great deal more Slytherin than anything.  What do you guys think?

I'll have to revisit this concept later.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Jack Skellington

One of the first cult 'Goth' movies I've ever seen or enjoyed was The Nightmare Before Christmas.  Not only did Tim Burton find a way to make the spooky and creepy parts of Halloween loveable and charming, he also found a way to make Santa into something just shy of nightmare fuel.  I mean, Look at him!
This is one of the movies where the 'hero' is unclear or understated.  Many people think it's Jack Skellington, but in reality it's Sally.  Sadly, Sally isn't the focus of most fanart.  Jack is.  If it were possible to find more charms of her, I'd make something inspired by her, but Jack's so much easier to work with. 

At any rate.  I made a Jack Skellington bracelet.  I had just enough beads and charms to squeeze a nice cohesive one out.  Take a look.

I used some pretty big honking charms this time.  I couldn't find any of the smaller ones anywhere.  I'd have liked to.  I was able to get ten of those for like 99 cents a few years ago.  Not any more, I guess.

In addition to the charms I added onyx teardrop shaped beads, Czech glass crystals, and swarovski electroplated crystals.  They're meant to emphasize the color scheme and keep it from being too plain.  I like my charm bracelets to have a smooth, undulating feel, despite them being chunky.  It makes them look like a solid band

Here, you can see the effect better.  It looks more like a solid woven band from this angle than a mess of jangly things.

Well, that's it for Skeleton Jack. 

For now at least..

Monday, April 14, 2014

Nayru's Love Revisited

Last week, I posted a small collection of photos of a bracelet I'd made with a Legend of Zelda theme, Nayru's Love.  WELL, I went and looked back on that bracelet, re-examined Ocarina of Time and I found that the first bracelet was far too blue.  It needed more silver, more soft, crystalline colors.  So, I made another.

In this incarnation for the bracelet, I decreased the simplicity and increased the drama!  As you can see, there are polyclay resin beads with silver inclusions, pearlized ceramic beads, brightly faceted swarovski crystals, Tibetan silver beads, and silver plated bead caps.

Another, better focused glamor shot.

A slightly less flattering but more details aerial view.

It was fun for me.  I wanted to do a series featuring each of the spells from Ocarina of Time, you know, Dinn's Fire, Farore's Wind...but my Nayru's love bracelets all sell as soon as I finish them.  I'm sure I'll eventually get one completed around the same time I complete the others for a full set... maybe.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Faux Patina Tutorial

Have you ever purchased a non-patina'd piece of metal work and wondered how you could give it more depth?  Or maybe you purchased some cheap electroplated resin or plastic findings and you wanted to make them look more like an expensive piece you'd pay much more for?

Anyone will tell you that a patina will add value to a piece.  The aged look of metal gives it more character, even if it's a cheap piece.  Patina makes a piece look more expensive and fetch a higher price.  This is important if you're trying to emulate an antiqued look.  Many patina tutorials I've seen so far instruct you to purchase different chemicals to speed up the aging of the metal, followed by buffing and polishing the metal so that some of its luster returns.

That's a little too tedious for me.  I use a different method.  It's cheap, simple and doesn't require me rubbing on a piece of metal until I get carpal tunnel.  Here's what you'll need:

Black Nail Polish (I like Essie)
A napkin
A Q-tip
Rubbing Alcohol
The metal findings you want to 'patina'
Clear nail polish.

That's it.  Six things, most of which I'm sure you already have laying around your house.  Now on to the process.

Step 1:
Clean the metal finding or bead with the alcohol using the Q-tip.  You want the surface to be as free of oils and dust as possible.
My untreated findings with the Essie Nail Polish

Step 2:
Paint the metal item completely with black nail polish.
Adding the polish.

Fully Blackened

Step 3:
While the polish is still wet, gently dab off or wipe off the excess polish until it only remains in the tiny cracks and corners of the metal finding.  Don't press too hard or you'll end up cleaning it all off.  Allow the item to dry for a few minutes.
Add caption

Step 4:
Apply a coat of clear nail polish.  This will seal the color on the metal and protect it from damage.  I usually use at least 2 coats.  Allow it to dry completely.  I actually apply clear polish to ALL my metal findings whether I patina them or not.  It protects against tarnishing and, if you have metal sensitivities, can prevent you from having a reaction.

The completed Faux Patina

That's all!  Tadaaaaa!


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Ladder Bracelets

What if I told you that there are simple bracelets that you can make with fewer than 40 beads?
Would you be inspired to make something magical?  Something punk?  Something industrial?  Or would you keep complaining that you don't have enough beads in your stash to do anything?  

Introducing the Ladder Bracelet!! 

I'm certain that the idea is not new, by any means.  Still, I realized that with 12-14 inches of chain and a small handful of beads, you can make a pretty funky bracelet.  It doesn't require a whole lot of beaded chain or stringing or anything like that.  Just simple wire work.

I was looking at some odd chain I had laying around and some beads that weren't quite enough to do what I originally wanted when I realized that the positioning of chain links ALWAYS follows an alternating pattern that puts adjacent links at perpendicular to one another.  Their positioning makes it possible to thread things like wire with beads on it through the links to form something of a ladder.  That is what I did. 

As you can see above, depending on how large the bead is and how large the chain links are, I use about 16-32 beads to make one ladder bracelet.  The beauty of this design is that it requires so few materials and works up very fast.  In the end, you have a neat bracelet with a lot of versatility. 

Why don't you guys give it a try and post links to your ladder bracelets in the comments? 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Autumn Colors

In case you all have been wondering why I've been posting a lot of strung necklaces, bracelets and what have you, it is because I'm trying to remain active in my craft in spite of being a little ball of aches and pains.  As I said in a previous post, stringing beads is one of the easiest things to do.  Babies can even string beads.

With my hands deciding to drop the tools whenever they feel like it, the damage and frustration from jewelry making can be reduced by working on stringing.  It's so simple and if my hands decide to cramp, I can just put the beads down on my bead board.  I can even set up my design on the bead board and leave it for a later day when my body isn't hurting and my head doesn't feel like I've been stabbed in it.  Just a note for you folks with arthritis and other joint problems: hot water soaks!  Sooooo goood.

ANYWAY.  Leaving off my 'old lady problems', take a gander at my newest creation.  I made it with my mom in mind and it's already in her possession.

Green, gold, and brown, Oh my!

I was actually basing my design on her color palette that she had done a while ago at the Palmer Pletsch workshops.  She sometimes has issues accessories that blend well into her wardrobe.  Since she's a warm autumn, she's got to have lots of rich, earth tones. 

So, I 'donated' this little baby to fortifying her wardrobe. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Another Zelda Fanart: Nayru's Love

I said in a previous post that Ocarina of Time was one of my favorite Zelda games.  I vowed to make more fanart jewelry for the game at a later time.  Well...I did.  It's nothing too involved, like the Navi pendants.  It's actually pretty simple.


I'm going to call this bracelet, Nayru's love after the protection spell you get from the Water temple.

Nayru, if I remember correctly was the goddess of wisdom in Hyrule.  Her colors were shades of blue and aqua.

For this bracelet, I incorporated crystals with a faint iridescence for the richness of water and sparkling crackle glass to symbolize power.  Finally, I put gold rhinestone swarovski rhondelles to tie everything together.

I like how it turned out.  How about you?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

How Charming

Charm bracelets are one of my least favorite jewelry item to make, wear and even SEE.  I've always thought of them as tacky.  When they first became super popular in the mid 90's (that's the earliest time I remember seeing them at least), they disgusted me.  A charm bracelet is essentially a trophy collection that you wear around your wrist.   It's easy to go overboard. 

What a hideous notion.  Keeping everything that you feel defines you dangling off your wrist to show off to the world.  That can quickly become hideously gaudy.  It violates all of my mysteriously present Victorian sensibilities and inclinations against bragging.

While I abhor the idea of charm bracelets because of their tendency to stray into the 'that's waaaay overboard' territory so easily, I have discovered some charm in themed bracelets.  These bracelets operate on similar mechanics and design principles as charm bracelets...however they tend to revolve around a specific theme or aesthetic.

For example, one of my bracelets that has long since left my possession:

Notice the recurring colors, charms and uniform placement of the elements.
This one is a handful of strawberry lockets, enameled beads, and Czech glass.  It follows a  color scheme, uniform pattern, and all of the recurring elements are positioned at different heights so their individual visibility is maximized.  It's not busy and it doesn't look like you put your trophy room on your arm in an attempt to validate your worth as a human being. 

Unfortunately, Themed Bracelets, still fall in the realm of Charm Bracelets, so, there's that.  Well, enough of that.  I'll show you more pictures of my Themed Bracelets so far.

I'm a 'Spooky Kid' so there should be no surprise that Jack Skellington is here.

And finally a Captain America inspired charm bracelet I made somewhat recently.  Well, that's all for this post.  Happy Crafting!

Some photos from Curated Objects.US