Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Kvetching about Projects

Not MY projects, mind you. Although it's a little tempting - - so little time, so much to do. My completed designs continue to pile up in my photo tent, where I carefully place them upon completion, with great intentions. But alas, the Photo Fairy never arrives, and I just know that if SHE is a no-show, then her friends, the Download Fairy, the Editing Fairy, the Uploading Fairy, and that fickle bitch, the Listing Fairy, will also be no-shows. And the more projects I pile up, the less I feel like tackling that job!

So, while I have been creating, I have no actual proof for you.

But on with my current peeve!

Like I said, Projects. Project Accessory, and Project Runway AllStars, to be exact.

First, Project Accessory.

Hard to know where to start, so let's just dive in.

I realize Project Accessory is a spinoff of Project Runway, but the producers really would have been wise to distance themselves a bit, stylistically, from PR. They have used PR's sets, identically (except for changing the logos from Project Runway to Project Accessory). They use the same format as PR, which could have worked, if only the show weren't so tragically flawed.

Molly Sims? Vapid. Certainly no style icon. Boring. Strutted some ridiculous looks on the runway in her little segments. She is no Heidi Klum.

Eva Longoria Manicotti, or whoever she is? Awful. Mentor? Unh-uh. Found her commentary pointless, and was it just me, or did it sound like she was really just saying different versions of the same thing everytime? She's no Tim Gunn.

The judges? Boring. At least Michael Kors and Nina Garcia show some humor and personality. Kenneth Cole? Ariel Foxman (who?)...Zzzzzzzzzz

(Eva, Kenneth, Ariel, Molly)

And the concept? I just don't get it.  I design jewelry. That's what I do. Would anyone really expect me to be able to design and fabricate a pair of shoes? This conceptual disconnect really bugged me from episode one. James was a fantastic shoe designer, but didn't stand a chance in a jewelry designing challenge. Etc.

And the finale? WTF?

As the final 3 were picking partners for the last challenge, I actually predicted, out loud, that whomever chose James would win, because they would have shoes in the bag (sorry). Yet, the first 2 contestants ignored James, and Brian nabbed him.

And Brian won - this is my big WTF moment. First of all, that resin necklace he created (below, far right model) looked like chipped, cracked golfballs and driveway gravel on gold-plated chain. Hideous. As was that weird necklace he actually sported himself at the runway show. Weird.

But the boots (center model), the pumps, and the clutch? Fabulous. Especially those slouch boots! I covet them. But, here's ths thing. Brian may have chosen that beautiful leather at Mood, but he didn't design OR fabricate the footwear, and my gut feeling is he had little to do with the clutch, either. So he wins, but because of James' contributions. In other words, James won.

And who should have won? Rich Sandomeno. Truly a genius with jewelry design and fabrication. So innovative. And that clutch he designed with the textured copper was incredible, and another piece I covet! But unfortunately, Rich was saddled with Diego for the final challenge. A mismatch if every there were one, stylistically, talent-wise, and especially in terms of attitude.
So, Project Accessory? A complete head-to-toe makeover is in order, and there might be hope for a second season. Make it work!

So, moving on the Project Runway Allstars.

I am a huge Project Runway fan, so I was more than excited to discover that the Allstar edition premiers in a week or so. I have seen the ads on LifeTime for a few weeks, but the only face I recognized was Austin Scarlett (I blame the rapid-fire editing of the commercial), so I cruised over to the website to see who these allstars would be. Well, ... uh, OK. As with most Allstar castings, I have mixed feelings. Love some, love to hate others (Hi, Kenley!)! And wonder about the inclusions of the rest (Rami? Zzzzzz). And am really sorry that Chris March isn't there! Did you guys SEE Mad Fashion? Love! Except the part where Bravo decided not to air the finale multiple times, like they normally do, so my DVR was set to record it, yet Bravo plugged in some sucky replacement show, so no mad Fashion finale for me. But I digress...

Here's the kicker. The REAL allstars of Project Runway are Heidi, Tim, and Michel Kors. Not so much Nina Garcia, but the other 3 are mandatory. So imagine my horror to see Joanna Coles cast in the Tim Gunn mentoring role (if you haven't seen her as a guest on PR, she is dry and dull), Angela Lindvall (Who??) in the Heidi spot, and Isaac Mizrahi (tool!) as a judge. Of course, that last bit explains why Tim Gunn is having no part in this. But Project Runway without Tim, Heidi, and Michael? I have lowered my expectations. At least that way I might be pleasantly surprised.

(Tim & Heidi)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Worth every minute!

Sunday was Metal Studio Day again, something a small group of us try to do once a month. Often we go in 12 different directions, and just do our own thing, but this time we decided to tackle one project together.

The project on the cover of the Oct-Nov 2011 issue of Step by Step Wire Jewelry had been calling out to us ever since we received the issue in the shop last month. The colors are "my colors" - seems like I am always returning to blue and green when I make jewelry, and green and blue look so fabulous with copper!

This necklace was a mix of cold connections and wire work, and we knew it would take a large chunk of time to create, so we gathered at 9:30 Sunday morning, and started to create.

I have to say that this project was unusually poorly written for a Step by Step Wire project; I can't recall ever seeing such vague instructions in a Step-by-Step project. To begin with, rather than telling you how much wire to use for the base piece, the instructions call for working directly off the wire spool, and coiling until "you have the right size". Yet the "right size" is never specified, and when a group of people are trying to create a project where they are sharing one spool of wire, they can't all "work off the spool" - an approximate length, and a template, would have been very helpful. So we spent quite some time on this step, futzing around, and wasting a lot of wire.

The size of this coiled wire base - its width, the height of its coils, and the number of coils - is critical to all the rest of the steps in the project, and determines the number and size of the beads and domed copper cups that will fill in the design. Without any clear measurements provided by the project, we sort of worked in the dark, cutting and doming our copper cups ("Make as many as you like.") while the base coil tumbled, not knowing really how many or what sizes we needed. But we made several different sized domed cups, and then had fun rummaging through the shop looking for green, blue, and brown beads to add to our project.

I decided to patina some of my copper cups using a method described in my brand new copy of Jewelry Lab.

This is an exciting book for metal workers - loaded with tips, tricks, and project ideas. I am particularly excited about the patina section right now, and after my success with the colored pencil & gesso technique, I can't wait to try more ideas from this book.

These are my colored-pencil patinated discs - I really like how they turned out, and it was so easy!

Assembling the necklace was tricky, as we discovered that getting the beads and copper cups to wrap tightly was not going to work as described in Step 6. We each attached 4 or 5 units according to these instructions, and they slid and wobbled on the base, so we figured out how to use some 24g wire to stabilize their attachments, and then we modified the attachment instructions for the rest of the units, to get a nice tight wrap onto the coil.

We finished the project, attaching the copper chain and S-hook as the last step, at 7:30 PM. So from start to finish, 10 hours. And worth every minute. Though some measurements and a template for the base coil would have saved us over an hour - but, to use my very least favorite colloquialism, it is what it is.

I am absolutely thrilled with my finished necklace, and now that I have completed the project and worked out the kinks, I am ready to make another one!

Edited 10/24/11 to add: In respect to the Step-by-Step Wire project instructions: A customer came into my bead shop on 10/22/11 and perused this particular article after noticing the project picture on the front of the issue. After about 4 minutes, she commented on how badly written the instructions were, and asked how she was supposed to know how much wire to purchase in order to make the project? Good point - I had only looked at it from the aspect of making it as a group; as a bead shop owner, I had not even considered the difficulty a customer would encounter if trying to purchase supplies for this project.

Monday, October 10, 2011

BSBP Revisited

I wanted to visit the Bead Soup Blog Party (BSBP) one more time, this time giving you a look at my favorites, in no particular order. I hope you'll take some time to visit their blogs and read how these creations came to life! (Note: these photos and all rights to them belong to these talented designers!)

I love this multistrand necklace created by Tiffany Long of Glory Hound Designs:

These colors are so delicious, and I love how she put the softness of the flowers with the hardness of the chain, and then added the colorful, whimsical silk ribbon at the back. And of course, all the embellishments! This reminds me of the multistrand dragonfly necklace I designed a few months ago; all the beads and chain and embellishing - I love making complex pieces like this, and I appreciate the time and effort Tiffany put into her gorgeous design, and I could definitely see myself wearing it!

Feast your eyes on this beautiful design, by Manuela Wutschke:

I love how Manuela started with the beautiful silver flower and accompanying silver bud, and turned them into a flowing, organic necklace that really looks like she plucked it from a garden! Beautiful blues and greens, and then a little unexpected touch of yellow; and the textures she has used are wonderful - so varied, just like in the garden. And I just have to add how much I enjoyed reading Manuela's design process in her post - she showed her sketches (whereas I did not show mine), and I was struck by how we both seemed to approach our designs in similar ways. I just love reading the gory details that go into jewelry designs!

This beadwoven necklace by Karin Slaton of Backstory Beads couldn't help but make my list!

Her brass flower focal (which looks like a silk flower to me!) is incredible, and she has hand woven these beautiful matching peyote beads and tubes to create a gorgeous necklace. I love her earthy color palette, and I love peyote - there is just so much you can do with this versatile stitch!

And take a look at this beautiful choker, created by Suzann Wilson, of Beadphoria:

Where do I begin? I love working with (and wearing) black, red, and white, and I love pearls - the bigger, the better! And this beautiful clasp - what a find! It makes a beautiful focal! Adding the sparkling crystals gives this a wonderful vintage feel, and it reminds me of the jewelry my grandmother used to let me play dress-up with. And I appreciate the work that goes into getting the strands of a multistrand piece to all be the correct length!

So that is my last look at BSBP - I saw so much beautiful jewelry, and I appreciate all the folks that took the time and effort to read and comment about my creations, and to visit all the other participants!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Sterling + Resin = Stunning Necklace!

Here is the second design I created last week:

The pendant has its origin in my foray into turning scrapbooking components into jewelry.

My friend Sonya had been watching videos and reading articles & books about Ice Resin, and wanted to try it. So we scheduled a day to meet and just play with bezels, found objects, glitter (!), scrapbooking stuff, and Ice Resin.

And before our play date arrived, I wanted to experiment with making a bezel, so I cut two 12-inch pieces of 14g sterling silver wire and hammered (and hammered and hammered) each piece until they were about 8mm wide. I wanted them to look hammered, so I made sure I only hammered the pieces on one side, and the result was 2 curved, unbelievably hard pieces of sterling. There was going to be NO opportunity to bend these pieces at all unless I annealed them, and I didn't want to deal with firescale, pickling, etc. I wanted to get my bezel done.

Fortunately, the 2 pieces of sterling wire were curved almost identically at their ends, yet curved in opposite directions in the middles. I decided to use this to my advantage, and I wire-wrapped both ends, which was a bit of a struggle, but I finally got them secured. The hardest part was muscling one of the wires into a big loop for the bail, and getting it to stay with the other wires while I did the top wrap. The bail wasn't turned the way I wanted it to be, but I knew that could be overcome somehow when it came time to design the necklace.  Then all that was left to do was turn the wire ends a little to complement the middles - I used my round nose pliers, and every bit of upper body strength I could muster. The wire was really work-hardened! But I had a nice, oval bezel to play with.

Play date! Sonya and I spent a lot of time just perusing all the different things we had to work with, and deciding what bezels were going to receive what goodies - this was fun!

Sonya had brought in a beautiful selection of scrapbooking papers, and I chose a piece with teal and pink garden scenes to create the backing for my bezel. I cut it to fit, and glued it around the edges to the back of my bezel. My bezel was not exactly flat - another fault of the work hardened wire, but the Ice Resin is self-leveling, so I knew if I could get the bezel to lie flat when we did the resin pour, then the resin would level out and everything would be perfect.

I poured a little bit of resin into the bezel, and then placed a bouquet of white paper flowers on top of this resin, and then "filled" the bezel with resin. I levelled the bezel (I thought) with a scaffolding of paper shims, cardboard shims, and toothpicks. Looked level to me. Ha!

This was our first time working with resin, and we had overpoured. Big time. Then I discovered that my bezel wasn't really level, despite my levelling efforts, so it was full at the top, bottom, and on one side, but had a huge, scooped-out looking defect on the other side. This is no big deal - I just had to re-level the bezel, and repour some resin. And I overpoured again, but once it cured and I did the clean up, the bezel was full, so I was happy. I polished the bezel with my Dremel, and set it aside to think about how to design around it.

I chose a lovely sterling silver chain with large, open links that have been hammered and textured. Since my bail was turned 90 degrees in the wrong direction, I couldn't just run the chain through the bail, and had to figure out how to attach the chain to the pendant. Once I figured this out, I wanted to add some embellishment to fill the space between the chain and the pendant, I had some tourmaline nuggets that matched the teal in the pendant perfectly, and dangled these on sterling chain in a cluster around the bail.

The larger links on the chain were the perfect size for a toggle bar, so I decided to do something I have never done before: A front closure. I have done plenty of side closures, but never a front closure. I selected a long, textured toggle bar and attached it to one end of the chain, and looped it through the large link on the other end of the chain. Closure!

I loved the way the tourmaline dangles pulled the teal out of the pendant, so I decided to add a few to the links in the chain. Voila!

And it's available in my Etsy Shop!

Sonya and I learned a lot about Ice Resin - it is fun, it is very forgiving, it is messy, it is self-leveling, and you can turn just about anything into a nice piece of jewelry with it. If you'd like to learn how to use Ice Resin, Sonya is going to be teaching an Ice Resin class at Yaya Beads later this month - give it a try!

Have a great day!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

New Beaded Wire-Wrapped Bangle

Happy October!!

I have had such a productive week! I completed 3 brand new designs, start to finish, plus I finished a custom-ordered kumihimo necklace and matching bracelet, and totally wowed their new owner. Always such a relief when the customer is happy!

I am so fortunate to have a full-time studio to work in - a dedicated place to design, create, photograph, and sell my work. But the downside is that it is 45 minutes away from my home, and I frequently leave all my computer work for my evenings and days off, and then realize I've left my memory card, or flash drive, or some other important documents sitting on the computer at work. And that's where I find myself today.

I was so proud to finish all these designs AND get all the pics taken and downloaded and edited, all in the same week! And now I find myself ready to blog about it, and my pics are literally in another state. So I will give you a little taste of one of my creations, and leave the rest for later on.

This is an absolutely delicious, lush, beaded sterling silver bangle. These red-banded agate beads are 12mm rounds, faceted and highly polished, and I fell in love with their rich coloration and swirls. The pinks range from the palest pink to a deep fuchsia, and the beads are so polished they literally look wet. They reminded me of freshly picked and washed raspberries! (I actually took to calling them "raspberry agate"). The minute I found these beads I nabbed them and stuffed them into my stash (you know what I'm talking about - we are all bead hoarders!), just waiting for the right project. And now I wish I had another strand!

This is a beaded wire bangle that I have made a number of times - it calls for 4 mm beads, and is fun to make. So I figured - 4mm, 12mm - what's the difference? Well, not exactly, but that's sort of what I thought - I figured I would just have to make a few "modifications" for the larger beads.


These beads were SO much bigger, and SO much heavier, that this became an almost overwhelming issue of engineering. I had to account for the bangle itself being wider, as well as the sizing being completely different because of the beads' diameter, and I also had to buttress the wires themselves just to get them to stay in bundles as I wrapped.
So I added lots of wraps along each side of the wire - these started out to be structural elements, but after I had done a few, I realized they looked great, so I decided to make a pair between each bead. These wires added both strength and texture to the bangle.
And while the sterling silver wire is perfect with these bright pink beads, the beads themselves are the real stars in this bracelet! This is such a bright, bold, dramatic accessory for so many different occasions. It can be dressed up, dressed down - it is so much fun! And it's available in my Etsy shop!

Many thanks to those of you who took the time to read my BSBP essay and leave comments. I visited each and everyone of my fellow BSBP participants, read every word, and was awed by all the talent.I know what a time commitment it was for those who blog-hopped for BSBP, and I truly appreciate your efforts and words. Thanks again!

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Bead Soup is SERVED! Par-tay!!

Wow - This was my first Bead Soup Challenge, first time I have ever done anything like this, and it was fun, but it was a true challenge. I taught myself some new techniques, and the following is a LONG, detailed account of my journey from beginning to end:

These are the beads I received from my delightful BSBP (Bead Soup Blog Party) partner, Tammy Jones:

I'll be breaking this beautiful assortment down individually, and trying to describe my creative process as I looked at the mix, and at the individual components, but as you can see in the above picture, I received a lot of beads, in various sizes, shapes, textures, and colors. The mix includes various turquoise nuggets in different shades and shapes, 4 irregular red bamboo coral nuggets, 11 irregular orange sponge coral nuggets, 2 larger irregular orange sponge coral nuggets, 10 faceted aventurine rounds, a very long strand of turquoise-colored glass beads, a silver toggle, and a large carnelian ring.

Before I get into the nitty gritty, I want to go ahead and reveal a grouped photo of all the pieces I created from Tammy's beads. I normally would save this for the end, but this was a really long process for me, so this is a long post, and I know folks are hopping around trying to see everyone's pretties, and some people won't have the patience for all my ramblings! So here they are:

2 necklaces, a bracelet, and a pair of earrings. Some of the jewelry-making techniques I used in my collection include:
  • Beadweaving: tubular peyote, circular peyote, herringbone, and netting
  • Wire and Metal Work
  • Stringing
If you want the gory details, stay tuned!! And at the end of this post, you'll find links to all the BSBP participants, to help you with your blog hopping and commenting.

According to the BSBP rules, I had to use the focal and the clasp I received; the use of any of the other beads I received was optional, and I was to incorporate beads from my own stash in my design. So I decided the best place to start designing was with the focal!

And obviously, some of the steps in this process overlap each other, because several ideas would suddenly occur to me at once.

This is a close up of the large carnelian ring I received. It is 2-1/4 inches in diameter, and has holes on either side.

Now I love to make big jewelry, but even for me this was a big focal piece. And to be honest, it was a little confounding, because while I have worked with donuts before, and this ring is essentially a big, drilled donut, I kept looking at it, and looking at the rest of the beads Tammy sent me, and drawing a blank. Do I string beads through the middle of the carnelian ring? Do I just wrap around either side of it, and leave the middle empty? Do I weave some sort of bail for it, and dangle something from the bottom hole? What to do, what to do?

And I kept looking at all the beads I'd received, and trying to pair them with the carnelian ring, and with each other, and trying to decide if the ring should just be center of a big multistranded soup necklace, or what?

After several days of pondering, and drawing, and thinking, and sketching, I finally decided that I couldn't figure out a way to incorporate all these beads into ONE finished design. It was making my head hurt! So I decided to let go, and focus on just a few of the beads I'd received.

I was drawn to these faceted aventurine beads, and really wanted to incorporate them into my piece. So I put them next to the carnelian ring, and pondered and sketched some more.

I starting rummaging through my OWN stash of beads, and pulling things I liked with the aventurine.

And I looked at the toggle, which I knew I had to use, and I just felt that proportionally, it was too small for anything I was coming up with for the carnelian ring.

It was at about this time, staring at the aventurine, staring at the carnelian ring, and looking at the beads I had pulled from my own stash, that I knew I really wanted to focus on the calming green colors that Tammy had sent me, like the aventurine and the strand of small turquoise-colored glass beads. I starting thinking even further outside my box, and a thought occurred to me: "What if I camouflage the carnelian ring, so it still serves as the focal, and yet is green?" How would I even do this?

I thought about wrapping it in green satin ribbon, or leather. Unh-uh.

Then I looked at my Delicas, and found the perfect color of aventurine green. But how do I stitch them onto the ring so that it is still usable as a focal? I knew peyote was the only stitch that would cover the carnelian evenly enough that no orange would show through. But how to envelope the carnelian ring in peyote? So I just decided to give it a try.

This was a critical juncture. I liked the stitching, and decided to continue encircling the ring with seafoam green delicas in a tight peyote stitch. But I had to decide what to do about the holes in the carnelian ring. Do I just stitch over them? If I do, I limit the ways I can use the focal when I finish stitching (and yes, I still had not come up with my "vision").

Or should I put headpins in them as placeholders, so that if I want wrapped loops on my finished ring, I'll be able to make them. And if I decide I don't want wrapped loops later in the process, I can always clip them off. But if I don't put them in, there's no going back and adding them through this tight stitch!

And if I go the headpin route, what metal do I use? Because THAT determines my clasp. Period.

I had pulled a couple of strands of pearls that I really liked with the aventurine - one was a beautiful ecru small keishe pearl that I actually ended up using in this finished piece, and the other was an incredible coppery-bronzy larger keishe, that had shades of orange, and went beautifully with the sponge coral. And at this stage, I didn't want to rule out the addition of some of Tammy's coral beads to this finished piece. I preferred Vintaj Natural Brass to silver when looking at all these beads together: the 2 strands of pearls, the long strand of turquoise-colored glass beads, the aventurine, and the sponge coral. So I grabbed 2 long Vintaj Natural Brass headpins, shoved them through the holes in the carnelian ring as placeholders, and kept stitching. And boy, did those headpins complicate the stitching.

At about the point you see in the pic above, the peyote tube I was stitching quit turning freely around the carnelian ring, because the stitched tube was starting to curve too much, and glass doesn't bend very well! So I was already starting to have to pass my needle and thread through the ring with each pass of a bead so I didn't have thread wrapped around the ring. And with the addition of the headpins, that thread started to catch on something or other with every pass. Oh well, one must suffer for one's art, I guess.

Finished ring, with headpins still protruding. You can sort of still see the carnelian between my stitches at the bottom edge of the ring.

Side view of the ring, clearing showing the underlying carnelian between my stitches. Those are actually transparent Delicas, too, so while they block part of the underlying ring from showing,
it's not really completely hidden. Just camouflaged!

Time to ponder some more. I looked at that great expanse of (now green) focal ring, and tried to come up with a design. I drew it as a center focal, with multiple strands coming off the wrapped loops I could create on each side. I drew it as an asymmetrical side focal, with multiple strands coming from the bottom wrapped loop, draping gracefully down and then up to the back, while a single chain came from the top wrapped loop to meet the other strands in the back. I drew some other stuff. But I was unhappy with everything, because even though my focal was green, it was still big, and it was plain, and it was taking up a lot of space.

Oooooh! I had a thought! What if I embellish the ring? I think I might have started to drool. Because I LOVE to embellish! In fact, they don't call me "the Queen of Embellishing" for nothing!

Here was my initial, simple thought: "How do I get some beads on this tightly stitched ring in a way that will attractively fill the dead space, and what beads do I use?" As I say all the time, "so many beads, so little time."

I carried my green ring around, looking at all my seed beads, and discovered that I had some Tilas that were a terrific match for both the green and the bronze. And I love Tilas.

I had my coral beads in the back of my head, and I knew I was now going to create Tila Flowers, one of my favorite ways to use Tilas, so I rummaged through my personal bead stash, looking for some smaller coral or red beads that matched.

I found some round, bright red bamboo coral 6mm beads, perfect for the flower centers.

I found some bright red Czech fire-polished crystals for the "petals".

And I filled in the rest of the flower pattern with bronze seed beads, teal seed beads, coral-red Delicas, and those turquoise-colored glass beads Tammy sent me.

I had initially thought these beads were turquoise, but when I took some off the strand, they reminded me a lot of size 6 seed beads. A LOT. They were a little irregular in shape and length, but they acted like size 6 Czech seed beads, and so I decided to treat them like size 6 seed beads.

And then I got curious, and decided to sacrifice one (since I had hundreds and hundreds of them), and I tapped it with a hammer, and sure enough, these beads were glass! Not that it mattered - I had already decided to use them as seed beads, but I was kind of pleased with my bead diagnostics!

So here is the first flower I made, threads still attached, awaiting my next move.

I love how it matched the ring, and envisioned 5 of these flowers covering more than half of the ring, overlapping each other and filling most of the hole in the middle of the green ring. So I stitched up 4 more flowers.

And then came the day I had dreaded: attaching the woven flowers to the ring, I knew this would not be easy. The green delicas were sewn so tightly, and so close to the carnelian, and many of them had multiple thread passes through them, so it was a bit of challenge, and a feat of engineering!
But it turned out just as I planned it, and I love the result. It is a big, structural focal piece, measuring 3-5/8 inches from top to bottom, and while you can still see the green ring, it is no longer a big, boring, dead space - it is a focal attraction! It calls attention to itself.

Meaning the rest of the necklace needs to be subtle. NOT my strong point.
Back of the ring, showing how my flowers even hide my wrapped loops.

Clearly this ring is too big to support a single strand necklace, and I had basically known from the beginning that I was working toward a multistrand result.

And now I have a side focal piece, so the question was how to bring the strands up to a clasp, and what kind of clasp? Something simple in the back, so as not to detract from the focal? Or something on the opposite side of the necklace, to balance the focal and allow for the placement of the strands, which otherwise would have to start clumping together when they reached the neck, and that's never comfortable.

And just when I was making my decision, my friend, Sonya, came in wearing a necklace she had just made, using a pattern in the Bead & Button Fall 2011 issue of WireWork. I loved the connectors on her necklace, so I decided to adapt them into a clasp, using Vintaj Natural Brass.

The largest Vintaj Natural Brass wire I had was 18g, which I hammered flat, leaving a nice textured look, but when I finished it felt a little flimsy to work as a clasp, so I tumbled it for a loooong time, but never really got the hardness I wanted. So I decided to make 2 identical clasps from the 18g wire and then wire them together, for a thicker, stronger piece. Simple, huh?

If you said "yes," you have clearly never worked much with wire!

It took hours and hours to get 2 pieces of wire to bend identically, to my satisfaction. Once I did, I hammered them, then wrapped them together with more Vintaj Natural Brass Wire, adding a couple of my BSBP aventurine beads in the curves.

Then I formed an S-hook from the 18g Vintaj Natural Brass wire, and cut some large jumprings for the S-hook to go into, so that the large S-hook and the large clasp would both lie flat. And the 18g jumprings weren't sturdy enough, so I wired a couple of them together, and finally added an aventurine and freshwater pearl dangle (from my own stash) to the tip of the S-hook. Clasp complete!

I used Vintaj Natural Brass chain to connect the focal ring and the clasp together around the neck.

On to the strands!

The 1st strand was a cake walk. I knew I wanted to use the faceted aventurine, and I had some delicate Vintaj Natural Brass chain, so I used some Vintaj Natural Brass headpins to make aventurine dangles, spread out over the length of the chain from focal to clasp, with a nice soft drape. This look, all by itself, was wonderful, and would have been a great finished necklace, except the strand literally wasn't heavy enough to balance the clasp and the focal, and I wanted to add more beads anyway! So on to strand 2!

If you remember, MY challenge with these strands was to be subtle, because I already had a focal that commanded attention, and couldn't really afford to be busy in the strands. So I added a simple, unadorned piece of Vintaj Natural Brass as strand 2.

For strand 3, I had always envisioned a delicate beadwoven rope, using the turquoise-colored Czech seed beads Tammy sent me. Here they are again:

I thought about a spiral, or a Russian Spiral, or even tubular herringbone, but they all seemed too...something. Either too big, or to busy, or I didn't have the right matching bead. Something.

So what does a crazy person do when working against a deadline? She decides to learn a brand NEW stitch, one that she has always and forever sworn NEVER to learn, because every time she reads instructions for it, she gets a headache. And what is this delightful stitch? Netting.

I found a pattern with instructions, chose a size 15 seed bead then went with my design, and took everything home for the weekend. And spent 3 days trying to figure it out. But I finally got it. (HINT: doing the same, wrong thing over and over again will never have a different result, and will never turn out right. Feel free quote me on that. LOL)

And I couldn't be happier with the result! It's the perfect size for this design.

Next? Strand 4. I used the ecru keishe pearls I had chosen from my stash, and added a few teal Czech fire-polished crystals for a little color balance.

Next? Strand 5. I strung Tammy's smaller sponge coral nuggets with my copper-colored large keishe pearls, and held it up to the already 4-strand necklace. And it looked fine, but when I took it away, I realized the necklace was better without this 5th strand. It was just too much. But I liked the strand, so I set it aside.

One BSBP project complete!

Project 2: I decided to use these 2 larger nuggets of sponge coral for a pair of earrings.

I added some of the copper-colored keishe pearls, and the last 2 adventurine beads I received in the swap.

Project 3: Here are those smaller sponge coral nuggets that I almost added as part of a 5th strand for my 1st necklace:

As I said earlier, I had already strung them with those luscious copper-colored freshwater pearls, and loved the result. So I made it longer, and decided to add a Swarovski Cosmic Ring as a focal. I stitched up a square stitch bail using copper-colored Delicas for the Cosmic Ring, restrung the pearls and sponge coral, and had one piece of sponge coral left, so I added it to the Vintaj Natural Brass chain extender in the back of the necklace as a dangle (trust me, it's back there!)

I am really happy with this necklace!

So, 3 projects done, and I have a lot of turquoise and bamboo coral left. And I still have a silver toggle to use.

Interestingly, 2 of these nuggets are drilled through the long side, and 2 are drilled through the short side. For a little added degree of difficulty.

I went a little Project Runway about now. My head was all "But what about the cohesiveness of your collection? You, are OUT!! Auf Wiedersehen!" I love bamboo coral, turquoise, and silver together, Heidi, but I have used all this Vintaj Natural Brass everywhere else! But then I slapped myself, and got down to business.

While digging through my box of personal bead soup, I had set aside everything turquoise and coral, and I also found a large piece of bamboo coral, so my first thought was "Cha-Cha". After all, I love the embellishing!

I made lots and lots of dangles for this bracelet, using sterling silver rolo chain as the base. I put the large piece of bamboo coral in the center as a focal, and the 2 pieces that are drilled through their long sides lie between the focal piece and the clasp. I hung all the dangles, and then had to make more dangles, because there were dangle-free spots, in my opinion. And you can't really have too many dangles! Even the 2 left-over bamboo coral nuggets from Tammy were turned into dangles.

Once done to my satisfaction, the large bamboo coral focal piece looked a little bare, so I used 16g sterling silver wire to create a hammered curlicue, and attached it to the focal bead.

One side...

and the other side of the Cha-cha bracelet.

The silver toggle clasp, and its own dangle.

So here is my complete collection again.

Thanks for reading all of this (if you did), and I hope you'll leave some comments!

This was a lot of fun, and a huge challenge for me, and I want to thank Lori Anderson for all her hard work and communications in getting this endeavor organized, and for the opportunity to participate.

These are the beads I sent my BSBP partner, Tammy. Tammy is the editor of Jewelry Making Daily, and can also be found on Facebook. It has been wonderful working with her and getting to know her, and I can't wait to see what she makes with my beads! Please visit her blog and take a look!

If you want to visit some of the talented folks participating in BSBP, here is a complete, semi-alphabetical list, broken up into small of 10 pairs to make it seem a little more manageable! {I'm all the way down at #177!}  As a matter of fact, I strongly recommend you give us "bottom-dwellers" (bottom of the list, that is) a fair shake, and start at the bottom of the list for your blog hopping!!

We know you can't visit all of us in one day! But maybe you can visit a few of us each day for the next week or two. I'm sure you will see some amazing designs, and you might even learn some neat stuff!

The Hostess, Lori Anderson and her partner, Manuela Wutschke

1. Aimee Wheaton and Barbara York
2. Alice Craddick and Sandra Richardson
3. Alison Sachs and Amy Severino
4. Allison Scott and Cynthia Abner
5. Amanda Cargill Austin and Charlene Sevier
6. Amanda Davie and Patsy Evins
7. Amber Dawn and Kim Ballor
8. Ambra Gostoli and Christine Hansen
9. Amy Freeland and Christine Altmiller
10. Ana Krepel-Novak and Eleanor Snare

11. Andrea Morici and Hope Smitherman
12. Andrea Trank and Jayne Capps
13. Andrea Turini and Charlene Jacka
14. Angela May and Emanda Johnson
15. Anitra Gordy and Elizabeth Owens Dwy
16. Ann Rishell and Debbie Price
17. Ann Sherwood and Lynne Bowland
18. Anna Lear and Barbe Saint John
19. Anna Sabina and and Erin Siegel
19. Nan Emmett and Erin Siegel
20. Astrid Boyce and Birgitta Lejonklou

21. B.R. Kuhlman and Deanna Chase
22. Barbara Bechtel and Bryna Lumb
23. Barbara Blaszczyk and DaviniaDesign
24. Barbara Judy and Holly Westfall
25. Barbara Lewis and Cathie Carroll
26. Barrie Edwards and Lyn Foley
27. Becky Fairclough and Jana Tarhala
28. Bella Borgouise and Gillian Lehman
29. Beth and Evie McCord and Erin Prais-Hintz
30. Beth Bricker and Heather Pyle

31. Beth Emery and Cassie Donlen
32. Bobbie Rafferty and Cindy Cima Edwards
33. Candice McGinnis and Sally Anderson
34. Carol Bradley and Cece Cormier
35. Cathy Khoury and Molly Alexander
36. Carol Tannahill and Hilary Frye
37. Carrie Tahquechi and Cris Peacock
38. Cat Pruitt and Cindy Gimbrone
39. Charlene Gary and Doris Stumpf
40. Charlotte Pevny and Kate Gardenghi

41. Cherrie Fick and Cathie Carroll
41. Claire Maunsell and Cherrie Fick
42. Cheryl Roe and Jenny Vidberg
43. Chris White and Norma Turvey
44. Christa Murphy and Kathy Alderfer
45. Christie Murrow and Dana James
46. Christina Miles and Collette Collins
47. Christine Brandel and Elizabeth Woodford
48. Christine Damm and Cynthia Deis
49. Christine Hendrickson and Debbie Goering
50. Christine Stonefield and Dee Wingrove-Smith

51. Cilla Watkins and Johanna Rhodes
52. Cindy Wimmer and Riki Schumacher
53. CJ Baushka and Cory Celaya
54. Courtney Breul and Joanna Matuszczyk
55. Cristi Clothier and Kathleen Robinson Young
56. Cryss Thain and Serena Trent
57. Cynthia Tucker and Kitty Durmaj
58. Dana Johnson Jones and Eva Sherman
59. Davinia Algeri and Janet McDonald
60. Deci Worland and Lara Lutrick

61. Diana Ptaszynski and Kristy Abner
62. Diane Cook and Kerry Bogert
63. Diane Hawkey and Jen Judd Velasquez
64. Dorcas Midkiff and Jill Harris
65. Doris Radlicki and Heather Goldsmith
66. Dot Lewallen and Gaea Cannaday
67. Elisabeth Auld and Jennifer Justman
68. Erin Fickert-Rowland and Geanina Grigore
69. Erin Grant and Julie Jones
70. Eszter Czibulyas and Helena Fritz

71. Fiona Christie and Michelle Heim
72. Gail Zwang and Genea Crivello-Knable
73. Geneva Collins and Jana Haag
74. Gretchen Nation and Heidi Post
75. Heather DeSimone and Karin Slaton
76. Heather Marley and Terry Carter
77. Ingrid McCue and Jennifer Pride
78. Jackie Ryan and Nicole Keller
79. Janna Harttgen and Joanne Tinley
80. Jean Yates and Lori Anderson

81. Jelveh Jaferian and Jenny Davies-Reazor
82. Jenni Connolly and Jennifer Heynen
83. Jennifer Cameron and Kristi Bowman
84. Jennifer Geldard and Lisa Liddy
85. Jennifer VanBenschoten and Kim Hora
86. Jess Italia Lincoln and Lori Greenberg
87. Jill MacKay and Lori Bergmann
88. JJ Jacobs and Karen Tremblay
89. Joyce Becker and Kathy Welsh
90. Judy Glende and Karen Sinkowski

91. Judy Riley and Kelly Morgan
92. JuLee Wolfe and Julie Bean
93. Julianna Cannon and Julianna Kis
94. Julie Nordine and Lesley Watt
95. K. Hutchinson and Shea Zukowski
96. Karen Firnberg and Karyn Bonfiglio
97. Karen Williams and Kimberly Roberts
98. Karen Zanco and Polly Barker
99. Kari Carrigan and Laura Twiford
100. Karin von Hoeren and Laura Blanck

101. Kate Richbourg and Lorelei Eurto
102. Kathleen Lange Klik and Maria Clark
103. Kathy Engstrom and Keri Lee Sereika
104. Kay Thomerson and Loretta Carstensen
105. Kelley Fogle and Laurel Bielec
106. Kelly Ramstack and Sally Anderson
107. Kim Stevens and Tiffany Long
108. Kristi Harrison and Mandy Williamson
109. Kristi Kyle and Lana Kinney
110. Kristina Johansson and Sue Hodgkinson

111. Kym Hunter and Laura Sanger
112. Laura Zeiner and Susan Kennedy
113. Laurel Steven and Mary McGraw
114. Laurie Hanna and Lisa Boucher
115. Lesley Weir and Liz DeLuca
116. Linda Djokic and Tracey Weiser
117. Linda Inhelder and Pam Brisse
118. Linda Landig and Lori Dorrington
119. Linda Murphy and Lisa Hamilton
119. Line Labrecque and Marianne Baxter
120. Lisa Lodge and Monica Johnson

121. Lois Moon and Melissa Muir
122. Lola Surwillo and Therese Frank
123. Lori Bowring Michaud and Marci Brooks
124. Lupe Meter and Norma Agron
125. Maggie Towne and Marge Beebe
126. Malin de Koning and Susie Hibdon
127. Mallory Hoffman and Shirley Moore
128. Marcie Abney and Patty Miller
129. Marcy Lamberson and Melissa Clarke
130. Margot Potter and Suzann Sladcik Wilson

131. Maria Grimes and Wendy Blum
132. Maria Horvath and Melinda Orr
133. Maria Rosa Sharrow and Marie-Noel Voyer-Cramp
134. Marian Hertzog and Melissa Mesara
135. Marianna Boylan and Sandi Lee James
136. Marina Dobrynina and Michaela Pabeschitz
137. Marsha Neal and Miri Agassi
138. Mary Ellen Parker and Melissa Meman
139. Mary Elliott and Tamara Soper
140. Mary Hicks and Laurel Steven

141. Melissa Pynn and Michelle Buettner
142. Michelle Hardy and Niki Meiners
143. Michelle Mach and Moira McEvoy
144. Missy Rappaport and Mags Saari
145. Molly Alexander and Poranna
146. Mylene Hillam and Nicole Rennell
147. Nadezhda Parfyonova and Stacey Curry
148. Nan Emmett and Nancy Peterson
149. Nancy Boylan and Natalie McKenna
150. Natalie Monkivitch and Niky Sayers

151. Natasha Lutes and Pam Ferrari
152. Noemi Baena and Penny Ilagan
153. Pamela Petry and Rebecca Sirevaag
154. Pat Haight and Mary Hicks
155. Patty Gasparino and Vonna Maslanka
156. Penny Neville and Sandi Volpe
157. Pepita Bos and Wendy Chamberlain
158. Raida Disbrow and Rebecca Watkins
159. Rebecca Anderson and Sabrina Staub
160. Regina Santerre and Rose Binoya

161. Rhea Freitag and Tari Kahrs
162. Rochelle Brisson and Teri Baskett
163. Sally Russick and Tracy Bell
164. Sandra McGriff and Shay Williams
165. Sandra Wollberg and Sara Hardin
166. Sarah Elder and Salla Small
167. Saskia Kaffenberger and Sharon Gardner
168. Sharon Palac and Shannon Chomanczuk
169. Shay Stone and Suzette Bentley
170. Shiraz Biggie and Tammy Powley

171. Staci Smith and Tracy Stillman
172. Stacie Stamper and Tracy Martin
173. Stefanie Teufel and Vicky Taylor
174. Stephanie Dixon and Stephanie LaRosa
175. Stephanie Haussler and Valerie Norton
176. Suzanne Tate and Terri Wlaschin
177. Sweet Freedom Designs (ME!) and Tammy Jones
178. Tania Spivey and Tari Sasser
179. Tara Plote and Terry Matuszyk
180. Terri Gauthier and Deana Hager
181. Theresa Fosdick and Tracey Nanstad

While compiling and linking the above list, I visited every shop on the list. I am amazed at the talent, and at how many of these folks I know from Etsy and/or FaceBook! Can't wait to see what everyone makes!