Soup, soup, beautiful bead soup!

The Bead Soup Blog Party has begun, with the exchange of bead soups! Denise got hers early last week while mine showed up at the end of the week. And I have to say, I think we were both quite chuffed with what we got.

Denise sent me a lovely selection of beads, inspired by my name, Melissa, which means honey or honey bee in Greek. The beads span a  palette of delicate oranges and yellows as well as earthy tones, plus a set of turquoise blue turtles for contrast. The beads include carnelian, coral, dyed agates and jasper, to set off two gorgeous stone focals, one a larged striped agate and the other a mustard-coloured agate, She threw in some of her favourite one- and two-holed beads and another small beadwoven focal that I think she made.

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The colours remind me of the Australian desert landscapes, which may lead me to some inspiration!

As to the beads I sent Denise, well, they had an Australian flavour of sorts. I picked beads by some of my favourite Australian beadmakers, including a big beautiful ceramic focal by Natali Fletcher-Jones, that I have been hoarding for a while, plus some earring charms by Melissa Gabelle, another local clay artist whose work I tend to squirrel away. These two ceramic artists are among my very favourites, and both of them keep tempting me with more and more lovely beads, which they sell through various groups on Facebook including Australian Art Beads, Handmade Alchemy and Handmade Beads and Findings, among others.

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I added several lengths of sari silk in colours that and a selection of Czech beads in different sizes and shapes in coordinating hues. Finally, there is also a brass dragonfly clasp that is similar to one I received in my very first bead soup! I hope you really enjoy playing with this soup Denise, I had fun putting it together for you!

Ok, so now we both have until 25 March to create with our bead soups. I’d better get cracking!

Inspired by Reading: A Place of My Own

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The January book for the Inspired by Reading Book Club was Michael Pollan’s book A Place of My Own: The Architechure of Daydreams. It’s not a new book, it was first published in 1997 or thereabouts, and it deals with the design and construction of a small building — a place for the author to write. In typical Pollan style, though, it’s about much more than that, it’s about architecture, it’s about the conflict between the architect, who puts dreams onto paper and the builder who has to turn them into reality, and a lot more.

From the back of the book:

Inspired in equal parts by Thoreau and Mr Blandings, A Place of My Own not only explores the history and meaning of all human building, it also demonstrates architecture’s unique power to give our bodies, minds, and dreams a home in the world.

It’s a pretty wordy book, and gets a bit long-winded at times, but on the whole I enjoyed it and it certainly made me think! Perhaps that’s because my husband and I are starting to talk a little more seriously about renovating our home, or at least think about getting the process started with dreams and plans!

So I thought I would take a slightly different approach this month, and talk about the plans I have to create a small studio space of my own. Our home is a (typical for the area) single storey, 4 bedroom house built almost 100 years ago originally, with a dated extension that’s probably 25 years old. But one of the attractions for us when we bought it was the existence of a detached bungalow (as we call them here in Australia) aka studio. It’s a two-room plus tiny bathroom space that is mostly used as a guest bedroom and spillover storage for everything that doesn’t fit in the house. Most of my books are in there (I have a lot much to my husband’s dismay), and the cupboards are full of random art and sewing supplies, extra kitchen stuff and more.

Anyway, with a recent reorganisation of various rooms and associated furniture within our house, I have decided to move all of my jewellery making supplies out there and turn part of it into a studio for myself. It will still have to double as a guest bedroom on a regular basis (don’t worry Gran and Papa, I’ll leave plenty of room for you!), so I can’t take over the whole space, and I can see myself bringing projects back inside to work on too, especially in the evenings.

Keeping in mind that it is a work in progress, I thought I would give you some before pictures, and I’ll come back in a few weeks to show you how it’s shaping up as a space to work.

Late last year I bought a fantastic old jeweller’s bench from a retired goldsmith. It was covered in layers of utilitarian grey paint, well hammered board as a working surface, and many other layers of grime, but it was a solid piece of furniture and at a pretty good price too! I immediately set to work sanding back the top and getting it ready to use. And then I ran out of steam and it’s been sitting there for a couple of months with things piling up on top of it. I’m hoping this weekend I might get back to it.

Here’s the before picture:

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My plan is to use the bench for metalwork — hammering, soldering, stamping, and so on. I am also planning to set up space for torch-fired enamelling, but because this workbench will be against a wall, I think I need to set up on a smaller table I can pull out into the middle of the room so that the flame is not directed straight at the wall.

My beads are in a complete mess, so my next job will be to sort them out. Most of my art beads and a fair few of the Czech glass beads I use most often are in this Ikea chest of drawers. It’s sitting in my hallway right now.

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I’ve moved most of the other boxes of supplies into the bungalow but I haven’t had a chance to sort it out yet, and I’ve got a bit of work to do to make the space my own. Fingers crossed I can get in there soon.

But wait. I couldn’t let this book go by without making something inspired by it. So I pulled out a tiny pair of house charms made by Lesley Watt and turned them into a sweet little pair of earrings.

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It’s on to the next book now, thanks again for another interesting read Andrew and William!

 

 

ABS January Challenge: Field of Flowers Earrings

I’m hoping to participate a bit more frequently with the Art Bead Scene monthly challenge this year, aided by the fact that they have published a little booklet with all twelve artworks for the year, so I can get a head start! Well, that’s the theory anyway!

This month’s painting — by Egon Schiele — is a riot of flowers in yellows, oranges and reds.

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I recently bought a couple of earring pairs from Melissa Gabelle. She decorates these little ceramic charms with slip to create a textured floral design. One of the pairs was a yellow and red design which was perfect for this challenge. I came up with a new way to hang the charms from the wires using deerhide leather, which I’m quite pleased with.

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In fact, I used the same technique to make a similar pair using smaller charms in purple.

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Thank you Art Bead Scene for an interesting and inspirational choice of art this month.

The 6th Annual ABS Ornament Blog Hop

Every year Art Bead Scene hosts a handmade holiday ornament blog hop, and for the past few years I’ve joined in. I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it this year, as I have had a really busy couple of months, but I found myself with some time to play today, so I put a handful of very simple ornaments together.

A couple of months ago, Michelle McCarthy from Firefly Design Studio sent me a cute snowman ornament. I found a couple of white lampwork beads with a frosted coating that reminded me of snowballs and knotted them all together.

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Ceramic bead and pendant maker Gaea always has a few festive pendants in her collection leading up to Christmas and this year was no exception. I also had a plaid tree she made last year left in my stash, so I pulled them all out. Because Gaea pairs her festive pendants with beads, there is little to do with them other than put them together, so I kept things simple and knotted them on red and green waxed linen.

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Finally, I have a stash of crystals that a friend gave me from a chandelier she removed a couple of years ago. I used some of the teardrop-shaped crystals and some Christmassy tartan ribbon to make some simple ornaments. They catch the light beautifully!

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To see what others have made, visit the Art Bead Scene blog here, people will be adding their links in the next day or so.

 

Inspired by Reading: The Silver Witch

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This month’s book for the Inspired by Reading Book Club was The Silver Witch by Paula Brackston, a lovely novel which weaves together the stories of Seren, a witch and shaman from Celtic Wales, and ceramic artist Tilda, who has moved to a cottage near a Welsh village after her husband’s death. As Seren and her Prince’s lives are increasingly threatened, Tilda discovers she has powers of her own, and an ancestral connection to Seren and the nearby lake.

The book features a pretty spectacular piece of jewellery, a golden torc engraved with Celtic designs of a hare and a dog. Sadly it’s not something I could easily make, so I looked instead at Tilda, a potter who creates beautiful ceramics. The pieces she creates when she moves to Wales are decorated with Celtic patterns as well, and this is what inspired me.

I chose a pretty ceramic pendant by BluMudd (sadly, Moriah isn’t making beads anymore) featuring a Celtic pattern in pretty shades of aqua greens and blues, reminding me of the lake that features in the book (although as I thought about it, I realized that the lake would probably be more of a deep dark blue, than green, especially in winter, when the book is set). I surrounded the focal with Czech glass beads in shades of blue and green, and added a small length of double chain in brass. It’s a simple piece but I think it captures the cool wintery colours of the book, and certainly the Celtic influences. What do you think?

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I really enjoyed the book and a couple of others I read by the same author. If you like a book that blends history, witchcraft, and yes, even a bit of romance, you’ll probably like them too. I’ll be seeking out a few more of Paula’s books in the near future.

 

Firefly Design Studio Challenge #2: By the Seaside

Michelle McCarthy‘s second design challenge is upon us, and this time, we had a seaside theme to work with. The kit contained a variety of components including a pendant, a bracelet focal, charms and beads by Michelle, in two colourways: sandy or blue. I chose the blue and waited somewhat impatiently for the kit to arrive in the mail. Ever noticed that it takes longer if you’re waiting for it?

Anyhow, the kit I received looked something like this (picture pinched from Michelle):

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Also in the kit was a mystery component by Cory Tompkins aka Tealwater Designs. Of course I neglected to take a photo of it, but you’ll see it in my pieces. Armed with the kit, I looked through my stash for some beads that would work well with the soft blue and sandy tones of the components. Surprisingly, I didn’t have as much as I thought in there that would work with it, but I ended up with a nice selection.

I put the earrings together first, embellishing Michelle’s charms with a little brass starfish swinging gaily in front.

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The necklace features Cory’s mystery component—a small polymer clay link decorated with a sea urchin-like texture—as a secondary element on one side. The beads are mostly Czech glass, with a single faux sea glass teardrop opposite the textured link, as well as some of Michelle’s ceramic beads from the kit. I had a pretty blue silk ribbon to use as a closure.

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I used much the same combination of beads in the bracelet.

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And here’s a picture of the whole set together. I love the muted palette, perfect for a wintery seaside visit (hey, well, I do live in Australia and winter has arrived this week).

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If you’d like to see some of the other designs, you can see them here in the Firefly Design Studio Designer Challenge Group on Facebook. I believe that while the voting period is open, the page is public, and you can vote by Liking photos, so like/love/wow away! To go straight to my designs, click here. And thank you for your appreciation!

We’re All Ears May challenge: Tea Party Earrings

It’s an awfully long time since I managed to do a post for the Earrings Everyday We’re All Ears challenge. I always start the month with the best of intentions, but the reveal date is the day before my monthly craft market (and I am one of the organisers), so I’m usually too busy getting ready for that to think about anything else.

But this month, I had the perfect beads in my stash, so I couldn’t really not do it, could I?! The theme this month was tea parties, and Erin put up the most delightful pictures of vintage tea pots and cups with dainty floral patterns.

A little while ago I bought a few pairs of beads and charms from Natalie McKenna, aka Grubbi Ceramics, decorated with fragments of vintage floral decals. I’m not sure how she does it, but these beads have almost an aged patina to them, as if they’ve been dug up as fragments in a forgotten back garden. I love them!

The first pair of earrings feature Grubbi charms with a vibrant English cut Czech glass bead in rosy pink, to match the decals.

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And the second pair of earrings, which I think might make their way into my jewellery box, pair a prettily decorated ceramic round with a rosy Czech glass rondelle. Sweet, don’t you think?

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Thank you for the inspiration Erin and Earrings Everyday, it was just what I needed!

Visit the Earrings Everyday blog for a daily dose of inspiration!