Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pray For Snow

Well, okay. I know that in many places, snow is not exactly something you pray for. But here in Lake Tahoe, believe me, people are doing their best to manifest that white stuff.  The resorts are open, but just barely. We have had a few days to play on the slopes, and it's pretty good to be able to ease into the season. Hopefully we'll have our snow legs all set for the next big storm.

In the meantime, we've finally settled into our new place and I pulled out my tools yesterday and worked on my designs with our kit.  What a pleasure it was to sit down with these pretty things!

I mostly stuck to the drawings I posted before. Here's the bracelet, very much as drawn.  I didn't use foxtail chain as planned; the holes in Joan's beads were big enough that I could use this handsome cable link chain. The beads will move, but they don't slide too freely. It's a real pleasure to wear, just frosty with that beautiful luster!

 The star and snowflake earrings really turned out nice, and they look great on! The wires aren't too long, so the stars just hover at the base of the lobe, with the snowflakes twinkling below. 
Snowflake porcelain bead sterling silver jewelry
Snowflake porcelain bead sterling silver jewelry
 I did go off-plan with the necklace, though.  I decided the short, centered design I had drawn was just too fussy, which is a weakness of mine.  I went bold, and made it really long, with the flakes off-centered and randomly placed stations of crystals along the chain.  I LOVE it. I'm wearing it. I might have to keep it.
 Snowflake porcelain bead sterling silver jewelrySnowflake porcelain bead sterling silver jewelry
I saved out a pair of Joan's icicles for simple earrings to match that stunning Wedgwood-style snowflake bead. Take a look at what I did with the loops. They hardly show on that bracelet, but here on these ethereal earrings, the steel loops really stood out.  What to do?  I wrapped them with 24g sterling silver wire. Now they are as shiny and white as the rest of the piece!

Overall, I am very pleased with this kit. These pieces can be worn through the winter, and would make fantastic holiday gifts. If you're a beader and want to make something special to give, our kit is a great value. Contact me or Joan in the comments if you'd like to order one; Joan described the exact contents in the blog, here. I have to correct one thing I just noticed, though: there's not a perfectly matched set of silver flakes in every kit. There are two larger and two smaller. And like true snowflakes, they are all a little different!

And you are welcome to make up your own version of these designs! I'm also happy to share my construction methods, if you want to know how I did something, just comment here in the blog.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Three Steps Forward...

You know the rest:  two steps back!

Overall, the move from Kauai to South Lake Tahoe has been pretty smooth,  if a tad messy in places.  I am so ready for Joan's beads to come so I can start to work with them.

I'm at my folks' place in Montana right now, and there's a fresh coat of snow for inspiration.  After looking at the photo of the kit Joan shared in her last post, I took to my sketchbook.

Here are my ideas for how I'll use the kit.  Joan's Wedgwood-style snowflake beads are just so elegant and beautiful, I think I'll frame it with two snowflakes, and use that at the center of a lightweight silver chain, with just a few crystal accents.  The crystals in the kit are 6mm flat flower spacers, and 3mm (tiny!) rounds.

I just this moment opened up Joan's package and have the beads before me in real life, yay!

Now I'm not sure that my first idea for the earrings at top left will work. I had planned on using a tiny crystal as a stopper, but they might be too small. I bet I can improvise and keep that design somehow.  I would try it and show the results, but--guess what--my silver snowflakes were not in my hand luggage as they should have been. Moving. What fun.

Anyway, I really dig that idea so I'll be giving it a try. The second earring there should be a snap (famous last words). I'll make a bunch of tiny star and crystal dangles with 22g ball-end headpins and string them on a short link of silver wire, then hang an icicle from it. I have already chosen the two most lustrous for this pair of earrings.

I'll use the rest of the beads and icicles for the bracelet as shown.  I think I'll string it on a chain, using the icicles as spacers and letting the ice cubes slide freely. More sparkling star and crystal dangles will make it a beautiful match for the icicle earrings!

I see that one of these sets has already gone out; can't wait to see the results!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

It's Snowing! Winter Blog Kit is Here!

Winter Blog Kit is here!  This is my kind of snow.  Kimmie is the winter sports enthusiast but I am perfectly happy with this version of snow here in sunny Florida.   We really wanted to top the Halloween Kit and I wanted lots of little sparkly bits.  I guess whether we topped the Halloween kit is a matter of opinion but you can't deny we nailed it on "lots of little sparkly bits."  This is our second blog kit and this is how we are doing it so far.  We each contribute at least $75 worth of beads, charms, components, whatever so long as it can be used to make jewelry :)  We make 10 kits and keep one each for ourselves to work with.  The remaining 8 are offered for sale on a first come first serve basis.  Cost of kit is $100 + $3.50 S&H. That's $150+ worth of beads for $100.   If you would like a kit just comment on this blog and one of us will get back to you.

Each kit contains:     4 Hand formed soldered and hammered sterling silver snowflakes,
                               matching pair included.
                               10 micro Swarovski Crystals in pale blue
                               10 6mm  clear Swarovski roundelles
                               1 Raised slip porcelain snowflake lentil shaped focal bead
                               6 Porcelain icicle charms
                               12 Luster ice cube porcelain beads
                               15 Tiny porcelain luster stars

I have 4 of the kits here with me ready to ship.  If you are kit customer 5 through 8 please be patient.  Kim is in the middle of a move and as soon as we can coordinate we will ship those kits.

If we haven't enticed you by the sheer awesomeness of our kits,  our next job is to try them out ourselves and see what we can make with them.  Stay tuned for the finished product post.  We also love to see your results if you buy a kit.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I Won A Hooter Contest!

Winner of the Artisan Whimsy "Hooters Owl Challenge."  I'm so proud of my little guy.  I told him to look at folks with those big owl eyes and he'd win.  Thanks to all that voted and be sure to check out Artisan Whimsy if you haven't already.  Great source for bead and jewelry info and tutorials and just general merriment.  

Friday, October 26, 2012

Lost and Found

The movers came this week, and all that's left are my tools, a few beads and some wire.
I'm supposed to be working on the kit, and packing, right? Instead I put this piece together:

Birdhouse glass and silver pendant with two birds
They remind me a little bit of cuckoo birds
Birdhouse glass and silver pendant with two birds

Love! The birdhouse is metal clay; I made it in a workshop with my friend Kate McKinnon in 2010. I didn't have anything in mind when I made it, other than using the architectural techniques we were learning.  I started making these little glass birds for earrings last fall:
Bluebird Earrings

Unfortunately, a couple of them broke clean in half. I hung on to the fronts, thinking I'd bezel set them or something. Then I happened upon the birdhouse and saw that they fit perfectly. 

To be honest, I had this idea months ago. I kept losing track of either the birds or the birdhouse and couldn't get them together in my hand at the same time until I started packing everything else up. I put the birds in a zippy bag and pinned them to the wall so I wouldn't lose them! Then I had a moment of frustration when I thought the house had gone with the movers. When I finally spotted it yesterday, aha! I put them together before they could run off again! 

Next week will likely be my last post from Hawaii.  I'm going to the gallery today to bring home my work. We land in LA on November 7, and we'll be in the mountains by the 9th. It's already snowing! 


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Owls Owls Owls

Artisan Whimsy is having an Owl Challenge, aptly named "Show Us Your Hooters."  Now as a 51 year old woman its been a long time since anyone has asked to see my hooters so how could I refuse?  Please vote for my hooters.  You'll have to become a member of Artisan Whimsy but its a good thing.  Artisan Whimsy is a new site that grew out of Creative Bead Chat on Facebook and is already proving to be an invaluable resource and fun place to hang out for us beady types.
My Owl Beads

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Diamonds, and Serendipity

Ah. I am moving.
Joan made a big move from Pennsylvania to Florida this year, and now I'm headed back to the mainland after nearly two years on the island of Kauai.  Things aren't all going as smoothly as I'd like, but I am on track to have my contribution to our Wintry Kit ready to go. I'm so glad to have something fun to focus on as a break from packing and planning.

I bought something new at the Honolulu Glass Art and Bead Festival a few weeks ago: diamond beads.  I passed some up a few years ago and had been kicking myself since.  They are gorgeous, with a one-of-a-kind fire. I will be using some 18K gold wire and findings, combined with fine and sterling silver. Texture, color, sparkle, I can't wait! Kit first, though.
Yeah, right--like I could just let them sit there! These silver hearts had been freshly tumbled, just begging me to add the diamonds and gold.  I'm very pleased with the results!
Silver heart pendant with 18kt gold and rough diamonds

Do you hold on to things in your stash, or do you only buy things with a project in mind?  Maybe, like me, you do both.  I have learned at long last to trust my instincts:  when a strand of beads or unusual item grabs me, I buy it if I can.  Sometimes, as with the diamonds, I have an immediate use for them.  Other times, I have had strands sit in the stash for years (10+ years, I'm not kidding) and then suddenly become EXACTLY what I need to fulfill an idea. Those moments are pretty satisfying!

An example would be these bottle cap beads:

vintage bottle cap beads

I had them in my box for at least five years. I enjoyed looking at them, but never gave much thought to using them. Then one day they became indispensible:
Green and Orange 'Bunny Pop' bracelet
Black Cherry Blackbird garnet braceletBlack and purple collage bracelet

They have been a wonderful addition to my collage bracelets.  I even based a whole bracelet on the delicious red color of this one:

-Amusingly, the cap says ORANGE on it.
I am running low on these beads, and I'm undecided about reordering. It felt so good to 'find' them serendipitously in the bead box; I wonder, will they feel as spontaneous if I buy more off the internet?  Funny how this emotional aspect of the materials comes into play. It's important, though, particularly in composing this kind of jewelry.  I have a specific feeling or association with pretty much every piece that gets to be a link.  Whether it's the fascination with vintage materials, or the pleasure of using a bead made by a friend, combining these things with pieces I've made myself feels in some ways like a self-portrait.  Each one has an element of discovery to it, and a story behind it.

With every piece of jewelry I make, I go through a process of questioning, reasoning, and pushing myself to look beyond my initial inclinations. There's no formula or pattern to it, and there never will be.

The pieces above are available on my website, with the exception of the black and purple bracelet, which is sold.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Custom Orders.....Blessing or Curse? (Part 1)

Custom orders are mostly a blessing for me but there is an element of curse.  I'm pretty much a brat and some days I just want to make what I want to make.  That's not always possible when orders need to go out.  Most of my customers are very patient.  I try and sit down and get orders out of the way but often my muse is pulling me the other way.  There are the orders that are REALLY a challenge.  Things that I know I can do; I just don't know exactly how.   Usually those sit on the back burner for a while until one day it comes to me.  Those are the ones with the "Eureka!" moments.  More about that in the blessing discussion.  There are things that I DON'T want to do but have agreed to do.  Not many of these.  I have actually learned to use the word "NO" but it does happen.  Usually this means I really like you but that may not be apparent when you wait two years for your order   The "Don't Want To" back burner takes even longer to simmer than the "Don't Know How To" back burner.   But all of these actually don't qualify as curses, just minor annoyances.  The only real curse of taking custom orders is the person who really doesn't get my work  but wants to order for reasons of their own.  There are some pretty benign members of this group.  The collector: just wants a hippo.  Doesn't matter who's hippo or what hippo as long as its a hippo they don't already have.  Its pretty easy to make them happy so collectors probably don't belong in the curse category.  So who does belong in the curse category?  Sadly its the Wannabe Artist.  They have worked out every tiny design detail to the point that I wonder why they need me.  Then I realize its my damn skill.  There is something about "Art by Proxy" that just kills my soul and make me want to scream "I am NOT your bead monkey!"  Just to put your mind at rest if you are one of my customers and wondering "Is this me?"  If I did a custom piece for you and you got it and you love it, then "NO" because I have learned to say "NO" to this person.  It never works out anyway.  Seems I have rambled on for quite a while on the con side of custom orders.  I will save pro for another day.

Monkeys are based on a custom order request. The "Monkey Love Bead" was inspired by the monkey pattern I came up with for the dress of the monkey girl.  I often like results so much that part or all of custom winds up in my non-custom work.  Mean Girl and Mean Boy at the top of the post are a brand new custom order based on my Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.  They haven't even shipped yet.  Love these but they are extremely difficult to do, so I will probably do variations but not many.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Working with the beautiful black crystals in the kit got me all inspired.  I went to the stash to see what else I could do with them.  Nothing ordinary would do. I wanted rich gorgeous black, everything. (I was a real aficionado of black, back in the day...a PIB, if you will, of the late '80s.  Does anyone else remember that?)

I found a vintage glass cabochon, really more like a shank button with the shank ground off.  Then inspiration struck:  I remembered these super-cool branchy beads I bought from Olive Glass years ago. They are black dichroic glass.  Not flashy, though, because when the beads were blown, the coating stretched and broke apart. Here's a closeup of the surface:

Black bracelet, dichroic glass, vintage cabochon, Swarovski crystals.

Although the curved branches are expensive, this was already a special piece to me, so I decided to use both of them and go for maximum impact.  I have actually made a setting for a button/cab like this before.  This one's not quite symmetrical; the texture of the top determined the placement of the prongs.

In choosing the details, I surprised myself with these vitrail-coated Swarovski crystals.  This flat flower shape is a new favorite. It looks so bold, almost garish straight-on, but as you can see, when they're snugged up to the branches, the side view is downright subtle.  The last piece has those great modular crystal beads, three in a stack.  Rather than using more black with them, I found that this dark red (really dark, they look black in my tin) set them off nicely.  They have a standard AB coating, which only shows on a small part of the bead surface, just enough to echo the dichroic glass and add sparkle without distracting.

I finished it with one of the silver tags I've started adding to my work.  I thought about having them laser engraved, but decided to sign and date them by hand, 'K/2012'. I use a titanium pen.

Black bracelet, dichroic glass, vintage cabochon, Swarovski crystals.

Here's the complete piece. I love it!

What do you think? I'd really like to know. I've been making these collage bracelets for a year or so and compose them carefully. Does it show?  Or does it look like I just threw a bunch of stuff together? 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

My Halloween Kit Creations

After the awesome job Kimmie did stretching the kit to the max, I am a little embarrassed to follow her.  I took an entirely different tact.  Partly because my jewelry skills are kind of rusty.  I have fallen into "Just make the beads."  Which is not entirely a bad thing.  Focus can be very good, but you gain a different perspective when you work with the beads.   I did well getting the multiples done on time for the kits.  However shows, orders and life didn't leave me with a huge window of time to put my finished jewelry part together.  A position I am all too familiar with but that's not entirely a bad thing either.  Sometime it takes pressure to get me working.

So here's what I came up with using very simple jewelry skills.  I added a good deal of colored enamel chain ( available from MyELEMENTS .)  I love her purple and lime green chain and they are my "Go To" for Halloween jewelry.  My first piece is a bracelet using the whole enchilada.  I used all my charms beads and washer rings.  Bracelet is simply jump ring-ed together.  Doubling up on jump rings at clasp for extra strength.  As my friend friend Yvonne from MyELEMENTS would call it "jump ring technology." My favorite part of the bracelet is one of the washer rings used as a toggle clasp.  I had some bars on hand that fit through perfectly.  My other little innovation was circles of chain around the bracelet holding some of the charms.  I also like how the chain weaves through the rings.  So for a one-shot-whip-it-together deal, I guess I am pretty pleased with myself and the results after all.

As I mentioned earlier, I wasn't very frugal on my use of porcelain charms and beads on my bracelet, so I decided that all chain earrings would be cute to wear with it.  For Halloween I am calling them "Dungeon Chain" earrings.  I simply threaded assorted lengths of the purple and green chain alternately and slipped on an ear wire.
On to Kimmie's contribution of crystals, headpins, wire bat and spider.  I simply adore this bat and spider and wanted to make something that really showcased it.  I came up with this simple lariat necklace.  I kept the addition of crystals to a minimum.  Just enough to give it a little spark of color.  The bat and spider are  the focal point when worn which is what I was going for.   I had lots of crystals left so I stacked a few up for fun earring that can be worn with lariat.  I lost the adorable little metal flower cap in my work clutter, so I will have them for another project.

A reminder of where we both started.  We still have kits left. Hopefully we have inspired you to make some Halloween bling of your own.  Kits are available at Joan Miller Porcelain  and Cute Glass Beads for $100 ($150+ component value.)   Our results: Kim $352 jewelry retail and Joan $280 jewelry retail value.  We'd love to see what our kit customers come up with and will be happy to post your results.  Our next kit is in the planning think brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr........Winter!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What can you make with one kit?

Designing with the Halloween kit was total fun.  I decided to see how far I could push the materials:  just how much jewelry could I make, with minimal additions?  It turns out the answer is a lot:
Handmade Halloween jewelry with porcelain beads, crystals, and sterling silver from our kit.
I added some jump rings and wire, but that's it.  All the interesting stuff there is found in a single kit.  I had to give it a lot of thought before jumping in, because I thought it would be cheating if I cut something apart and just pulled out another ball-end headpin, for example, from my personal supply.  I was also super-stingy, using the scraps from the kit's headpins wherever I could to minimize the added wire.
I did a lot of sketching first:

Showing the sketchbook where Kim worked out her jewelry designs.

Not everything turned out as I had planned; I didn't originally intend to make a bracelet like that at all.  Wouldn't you know, it's one of my favorite pieces! --D'oh! I just realized there's one piece missing from the photo, because I was wearing it when I took the picture:
A ring handmade from sterling wire with crystals and porcelain bead zombie charm.
Ha Ha!  Check that out, I think it's hilarious! The ghoul face is a real SCREAM, huh? 
 Spider Halloween pendant with crystals and porcelain handmade beads.

I love that horizontal element.  It's just a headpin from the kit, cut and bent tightly at the end.  The charm hangs from a jump ring in the center.  You can clearly see the stirrup shape at the top of the spider pendant; I use that a lot with the odd-shaped materials I like so much.  You can make a link out of almost anything with that.  Just make an eye at either end of your length of wire and hold it in the center with round nose pliers.  Use your fingers to bend the ends around the wire, evening it up as you go. Depending on which way the loops face, you can hold something facing either direction; notice the charm is being held by the same kind of thing, just bent the opposite way to hold a sideways-facing piece.  I used it again, bending it around a ring mandrel, for the shank on the Ghoulie ring.

         Spider and bat Halloween earrings with crystals and porcelain handmade beads. Skull and Black Cat Halloween earrings with crystals and porcelain handmade beads.
I knew all along I wanted to use the bat and spider together, but how?  The cauldron was a bit of a mystery bead for me; I didn't know where it should go, but then I realized it would match that disk, whose stripes echo a spiderweb, and it all fell together.  I love their little faces.  So funny, like little masks. The black cat and skull beads seemed like a natural pairing, and I was able to use scrap wire from other pieces to make the colorful link they dangle from.  I used headpins from the kit for all of these earwires. I have used these enamel beadcaps before. The Jet AB crystal is my favorite thing to put inside them.

That leaves the bracelet:
Pumpkin and Candy Corn Halloween bracelet with crystals and porcelain handmade beads.
Again, I decided early on to use the Jack o'lantern and candy corn together, and the disk was a perfect match.  The remaining crystals in the kit divided themselves perfectly into these links. I used every single bead in the kit!
All of these pieces are currently available on my website, along with the kit, of course!
(click the text above to visit)

Joan and I are so excited to see what y'all do with our kit.  Can't wait until the photos start coming in!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Re-Launch Post

It looked like EastCoast-WestCoast Beads might be another one of those blogs that end up in mothballs, but Joan and I are determined to shake it out and shake things up.  We have come up with a new format that brings the focus to the BEADS--you know, the fun stuff, and we'll be posting weekly, sometimes more often.  In that spirit, we renamed the blog Metal, Mud, and Sand, for the raw materials we work with.

For starters, we plan on introducing challenges based on kits we design using our own beads and components. We'll post our own designs and make the kits available to you, too, through our websites. We really want to see and hear what YOU are up to, and where our beads go when they leave us.

I'm really looking forward to sharing the process of creation.  Sitting down and talking about it while I'm working will probably be a challenge at first.  Oh, who am I kidding, it will be a HUGE challenge, because once I get started, I am completely single-minded and have to be reminded to eat and brush my teeth when I'm at the bench.  Taking time out to photograph what I'm doing and actually put it down in words is going to be hard, but valuable--I learn so much by just writing down my thoughts.

Kim and Joan's Halloween kit with porcelain beads and charms.
                                                           Special Halloween Blog Kit
                                                           Special Halloween Blog Kit
Handmade silver bat and spider charms
                                                 Sterling Silver Bat and Spider Components
Joan Miller Halloween porcelain beads
                                                    Colored Porcelain Charms and Beads
                                                            Patterned Washer Discs
 4mm Swarovski bicones,  Large jet black Swarovski "bones", Lilac metal flower cap, Sterling Silver Ball End Head Pins

(Joan here)  From mothballs to a big batch of Halloween fun.  We're serious this time.  Kim and I put together what we think is an irresistible collection of spooky goodies and great value too.  Our pact involved making up 10 sets of beads/findings.  We each took one and created with it.  Our next post will be our results.   That leaves 8 kits up for grabs.  We estimate the retail value of the kits to be at least $150 and we are offering them for $100.  You get 8 Joan Miller Halloween beads or charms, 4 fancy washer discs, a fabulous sterling silver bat and spider by Kim Van Antwerp , sterling silver ball end head pins, assorted Swarovski crystals and oh so cute tiny colored metal flower caps.  Limit one kit per person.  Available at Joan Miller Porcelain and Cute Glass Beads.  Stay Tuned to see what we came up with and we'd love to see what you do with your kit.