Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Bracelet a Week: Happy New Year

Diamond and Jewels Cuff

I can barely believe it, but week 52 of the Bracelet a Week challenge has arrived, and everything is wrapped up in a neat little bow. Bracelet number fifty-two is complete, and there are only hours left until the end of the year. Thank you so much for joining me and encouraging me during this challenge!

For the final bracelet, I wanted to do something colorful and celebratory. I’ve made a habit during these challenges to use rainbow themes for final designs, and I didn’t see any reason not to do it again this time.

Because this challenge is ending at the start of the New Year, I was inspired to create something that might resemble stars and fireworks. I started with a selection of Swarovski bicones in bright birthstone hues. The variety of colors and their characteristic sparkle would easily provide that flashy effect that I wanted.

Although I had a little more time for beading this week compared to Christmas, I still had a pretty tight deadline. I know from the Necklace a Day challenge that one of the easiest ways to make a design go faster is to use larger beads. So, I paired my crystals with 6/o silver lined crystal seed beads, and whipped up a simple but sparkly herringbone cuff.

Bracelet 52

I added one crystal every two rows in random places, trying not to repeat the same pattern of colors as I went. Once the bracelet started coming together, I realized that it looks a little like white fruit cake – even more appropriate for this time of year, and certainly a fun treat for celebrations.

The overall concept for this cuff – using almost entirely 6/o silver lined crystal seed beads – came about when I was contemplating my design challenge for 2012. I’ll be ready to reveal it in January, as soon as the New Beads challenge is wrapped up. November’s necklace is a little delayed, but coming along nicely, and December’s beads are in the mail. Within a few weeks, I’ll have one more goal to check off the list.

Farewell to 2011! What are your crafty resolutions for the New Year?

Copyright 2011 Inspirational Beading
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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Inspired by Geodes

One of my favorite inspiration blogs, Glitter Guide, recently suggested using geodes to add sparkle around your home. Although they have been known to make great paperweights and end table decorations - not to mention jewelry components - I wondered if there were even more ways to incorporate these gorgeous crystal formations into decor. Perhaps there would even be something for someone who has sworn off rocks and gems!

I wasn't surprised by the number of stunning photographs that I found on Pinterest with a quick search for geodes, but I was delighted with the variety. Here are just a few of my favorites...

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Bracelet a Week: Unexpected

Bold Button Wrap Bracelet

Have you ever wished that you could make time stop, so that you could get a little more work done? That’s a little how I felt over the week of Christmas, as so many different deadlines and obligations closed in. Not only is it the busiest work week of the year, but I was spending most of my free time rushing to finish a handmade Christmas gift. So I needed a bracelet project that I could finish in one sitting, and check one more task off the list.

One of the quickest stitches to work is St. Petersburg chain, so I decided to take this opportunity to use a few more of my new 8/0 seed beads, and whip up a quick wrist wrap. Instead of making a complicated pattern or palette, I chose simple black and turquoise. Even though the design and colors look fairly ordinary, they seem to make a big impact together.

As I was stitching the first row, and looking forward to the end of the project, a little light bulb came on. What if the button were completely different from the rest of the bracelet? It would certainly be new and interesting, but I also hoped that it might lend a bit of mod-podge flair. Plus adding a contrasting button would give the bracelet an unexpected and welcome focal.

It was a little tough choosing colors for the button. I definitely wanted red or green - but not both. I finally decided on white lined peridot with a brown horn druk base, and I couldn’t be happier with the result. I look forward to testing out more combinations of contrasting button colors in the New Year!

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Monday, December 19, 2011

A Bracelet a Week: Yellow

Yellow Chevron Cuff

Last week I couldn’t resist giving in to the temptation to make another herringbone cuff. Apart from how easy it is to create simple repeating patterns with this stitch, I love how quick it is to finish the ends and cover up the bridge threads, since the beadwork moves vertically instead of horizontally like peyote stitch, and the bare edges are small.

Perhaps I’m getting a little weary of gray winter weather, but I’ve been craving some yellow seed beads, so I built my palette around two shades of bright and lemony hues. I added transparent cobalt for a bold contrast, but something else was needed to fill things out. I considered green for awhile, before finally deciding on a pale shade of transparent orange.

There are only two more bracelets left in this challenge, and I can’t decide what to make! Let’s hope that inspiration strikes soon. In the meantime, happy holidays!

Copyright 2011 Inspirational Beading
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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Bead Color Ideas: Winter Wonderland

It’s only one week until Christmas - one of the most inspiring seasons for artists and crafters. As beaders, we’re pretty lucky to have such a wide variety of beads to choose from when creating our crafts, gifts and ornaments for the holidays. Thanks to the subtle changes that bead shape and finish can make, we can take familiar seasonal palettes and make them seem new again.

Of course, we also have the option of taking non-traditional colors, and making them seem more festive in the ways that we apply them. Instead of looking at bead palettes in red, white and green, I wanted to examine some of the possibilities of a less obvious color scheme, and make them seem frosty and nostalgic.

Jewel tones and metallics can easily be transformed into stunning holiday designs, so I started with a palette of indigo, seafoam and gold. The challenge will be to pair up the right shades and shapes to create trios with classic Christmas flair.

The brightest and boldest of the triads is Sugar Plum, made with 11/o seed beads in silver-lined topaz, purple lined Rosaline, and 8/o matte transparent teal. There’s a lot of color and shimmer here - it’s a magical palette perfect for ornaments and festive jewelry.

Sugar Plum Bead Palette Idea

The look of the first palette inspired a second that pays tribute to Vintage Christmas Ornaments, with their unusual shapes and colors. I had strings of Mardi Gras style beads in bright metallic colors and giant flocked glass bulbs in mind when I paired 11/o seed beads in cobalt AB with aqua AB fire polish and antique gold Swarovski pearls.

Vintage Ornament Bead Palette Idea

Finally, the softest palette contains transparent light topaz seed beads, sea foam lined hex cuts, and matte blue raku bugles. This trio brings to mind Window Shopping, perhaps on a street in New York on a crisp December afternoon - elegant jewelry, holiday gowns, and cashmere sweaters.

Window Shopping Bead Palette Idea

Do you like to use metallics and jewel tones in your holiday designs? What’s your favorite combination?

Copyright 2011 Inspirational Beading
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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Bracelet a Week: Stripes and Wine

Chocolate Cherry Striped Bracelet

This week I was in the mood to work with primarily seed beads. I’m not sure why, but the accent bead sections of my bead stash just aren’t inspiring of late. I tried to steer clear of yet another herringbone cuff - though I’m starting to think of them as a signature design. Instead, I thought I’d use a different style of herringbone.

Graduated, or bridged herringbone bracelets were a favorite project when I first started beading. They’re simple to do, but look unique and complex. Plus it allows for the combination of many colors without creating an elaborate pattern for them.

I’ve been trying to stick to my Egyptian and tribal themes whenever I can, so I started with black and white, which would make up the striped center. I chose transparent rootbeer for the base, but the palette needed a little something extra.

I noticed that my stash of mauve lined topaz was getting low, but there would be more than enough to finish this bracelet. So I added it to the mix, and found that the brown and red look delicious together - like wine and chocolate. Or maybe I’m just looking forward to holiday treats?

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Book Spotlight: Lovable Beaded Creatures

Do you remember berry beads? Not to be confused with Miyuki’s answer to the peanut seed bead, these little plastic beads with bubbly surfaces were all the rage for crafting in the 70’s and 80’s. Most craft stores carried them in abundance, along with fun little booklets for making all kinds of 3-D animals and objects with them. I used to think berry beads were ultimate.

Then I discovered seed beads, and everything else got swept aside. But it was those first pipe cleaner and plastic projects that inspired my love of 3-D beading, though I’ve mostly admired the work of other artists in that area. So when I picked up a copy of Lovable Beaded Creatures, I was instantly transported to the 80’s. Although these creatures are made with totally different materials, they still have a very charming, very vintage look.

Loveable Beaded Creaturescontains nearly thirty different 3-D animal designs by artist Anja Freese. Each creature is constructed with 8/o seed beads and wire, using a simple cross weave approach. The structures look so lively and elaborate, it’s almost hard to image how they can come together with such straightforward techniques.

Anja begins with a detailed overview of the materials and tools needed to create your own beaded creatures, and provides instructions and tips for weaving the beads together, assembling the designs, and adding embellishments. The steps are very clear, and include easy to follow diagrams to help guide you through the process of building animals from beads.

Animal lovers will be absolutely delighted with the projects. There are a wide variety of creatures to choose from, including insects, fish, barnyard animals, and exotic beasts like anteaters and poison arrow frogs. Each one is so charming that it’s hard to choose a favorite, or decide which one to try first!

Each project includes a color and weaving chart to follow that will guide you through the construction of the animal, plus written instructions and tips for putting each creature together. There are plenty of close-up photographs of finished designs to help guide and inspire you as well.

At the end of the book, Anja Freese gives a brief overview of loom weaving, then shares some fantastic beaded animal patterns like birds and snakes, which can be used to make traditional-looking bracelets. She also includes instructions for creating brooches and hair barrettes with 3-D beaded animals.

If you ever get bored of the same old thing, and want to try using your beads in a whole new way, this book will provide you with hours of fun!

Copyright 2011 Inspirational Beading and Anja Freese
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Friday, December 9, 2011

A Bracelet a Week: River Stripes

Green Stripe Cuff

When I sat down to write about last week’s bracelet, it suddenly occurred to me that this challenge is nearly at an end. It seems that out of nowhere, the end of the year is approaching - there are only a few weeks left to go. It hardly feels like an entire year has gone by, let alone nearly fifty two bracelets.

I had no idea how difficult this challenge would be at the end, with so many changes to my schedule. I would love to make something big and elaborate for the last leg of this journey, but I don’t know if I can find the time. It would be nice to finish off with the best design yet, but I’ll be happy with whatever inspiration, and opportunity, allows.

In any case, I was a little worried that the designs over the past few weeks have been a little dry. While I’m certainly not wanting for ideas, I have a lot less time to execute them within the tight deadlines of a weekly challenge. For the most recent piece, I set out to do something that fits my current style, but wasn’t previously attempted. In the end, I turned to a stitch that I haven’t used in a really long time - since I first started beading, in fact.

Using plain, ordinary flat brick stitch, and a combination of fun bead colors and shapes, I worked up a simple cuff that looks so much like a rag rug that it makes me think of early 1980’s kitchens, flying carpets, and macramé wall hangings all at once. The combination of greens and blues, with a hint of black and white, has a sort of watery effect, like jewels at the bottom of a lagoon.

I’m very tempted to use this stitch one more time this year, because it was so much fun to play with a simple pattern and an even simpler stitch.

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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christmas Beading Projects and Craft Tutorials

Although there are so many wonderful things to look forward to in December, there is one downside to this particular time of year. There isn’t a whole lot of daylight to go around. I’ve just put the finishing touches on this week’s bracelet project, but I won’t be home to capture some photographs for you until next week.

In the meantime, I thought I would share some of my favorite holiday inspired beading projects. Some you may recognize as instant classics, while others may help to inspire your next decoration or gift. Either way, there’s no better time to pull out your bead stash and get creating!

A classic decoration gets a modern makeover with this Felt Folly Beaded Christmas Wreath

For a fun Christmas vacation project to do with the kids, try these Easy Beaded Ornament Hangers

Get the look of antique ornaments in miniature with these Old World Christmas Earrings

For a more complex project, try the Carol of the Bells Bracelet in square stitch, by

It just wouldn't be Christmas beading without a great pattern like this Holly Wreath Peyote Cuff Bracelet

Swarovski crystal shapes are great for holiday crafts, like these Elf Hat Earrings

It was too hard to pick just one project from the FusionBeads Inspiration Center. It is a fantastic resource for seasonal beading and basic jewelry techniques.

Happy beading, and happy holidays!

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bead Crochet Rope Tutorials

Beaded Crochet Scarf Necklace

Earlier this month, an Inspirational Beading reader requested a tutorial for bead crochet. I have been fascinated by the combination of classic crochet techniques with beading and jewelry design for many years, although I haven’t quite had the motivation to pick up a new kind of needle. I dabbled a bit with chain stitch last year, and found it to be very pleasant, but since then I’ve been content to admire the work of crochet experts in fiber, and even wire.

Like many beaders, I do love the look of an evenly stitched bead crochet rope. The appearance is similar to tubular peyote, but more supple, and with a little planning, the more marvelous patterns can be created. I’m not quite ready to invest in a bead spinner and take the crochet plunge, so I went on a hunt for some crochet experts.

One of my favorite bead crochet tutorials by far is by Julie A. Harper of Le Beadoir, on Beader's Showcase. It includes, big, colorful close-up photographs that are easy to see and follow - essential for learning this very hands on technique.

On Beads East, you can find a quick list of helpful, and even animated, bead crochet tutorials for both left and right handed work.

Naturally, features an excellent primer for beginning a bead crochet rope, with big color photographs and easy to follow instructions.

For the visual learner, nothing beats the instruction that comes from a live class. The next best thing is a well made video tutorial, and this one from is my favorite. The use of big pony beads in the example rope makes it easy for beaders to see the steps. The CraftMastery channel also has lots of excellent videos for learning crochet techniques that can provide helpful knowledge to absolute beginners.

Although the techniques that we use for beadwork are mostly universal, everyone has a favorite tutorial or teacher to turn to that really helps them click with the concepts. For one more taste of getting a bead crochet rope started, check out a quick tutorial from Beading Daily.

The Bead Wrangler provides a whole page of helpful tips and tricks for bead crochet, including which threads to use, which bead types, and how wide ropes should be when working with variations.

Have you tackled or mastered bead crochet? What’s your favorite way to use it?

Copyright 2011 Inspirational Beading
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Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Bracelet a Week: Quick Jade

Jade Three Strand Bracelet

This week I needed a bracelet project that I could finish and photograph in the same day - something quick and simple. Ironically, the piece that I chose to make used a large assortment of beads, which made my work space look a lot more complicated than the actual bracelet-to-be.

I decided to go with an easy three strand bracelet, and what better place to start than with an Egyptian hieroglyph bead? I’ve already done one with orange, so I decided to create its mate in jade green. Although the opportunity to find another new palette for these hieroglyph beads was tempting, I couldn’t resist using some of the same beads from my jade necklace. I really loved the combination of olive greens with turquoise and topaz.

Unfortunately, I had used up all of my green Swarovski bicones for the necklace, so I had to make a few adjustments to the palette for the bracelet. Once I got going, I found all kinds of fun things to add, and ended up with a very different look. The bracelet has a much softer mood to it - a bit more playful.

Do you like to use the same palettes over many projects?

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Friday, November 25, 2011

New Beads: Baby Blue

Picasso Chips and Chinese Seed Beads

When I started my buy-some-neat-new-beads-every-month challenge at the beginning of this year, I didn’t anticipate any major changes in my bead budget, and I had hoped to discover lots of unique and interesting beads, particularly handmade lampwork. I have found some great glass artists along the way, but October’s budget was too small for anything quite so special.

I don’t like to give up on a good challenge, especially one that helps inspire new ideas and ways to use beads. In order to keep the New Beads challenge going, I had to break a few of my own rules. The upside is that it allowed me to make use of some beads that have been rattling around in my stash for a long time.

Years ago, I purchased a vial of mixed Czech glass beads, and sorted them out by shape and color. All of those beads have long since been used, except for a handful of rough cut Picasso tubes in black and red. When I first gathered them up, I was inspired to pair them with pale blue or turquoise, possibly in a multi-strand necklace. I saw them nestled randomly along strands of Czech seed beads - the slightly irregular shapes would pair up well with these speckled little oddities. I’ve been carrying around the image of this necklace ever since, and whenever I pass by the bead section at my neighborhood dollar store, I think of it. The big packets of delightfully wonky* Chinese seed beads call out to me, saying “Wouldn’t we look great in a multi-strand necklace?”.

Since my budget was so small, I decided to grab some of these quirky seed beads in baby blue, and finally create the necklace that my little Picasso beads were meant for. I was excited about finally tackling the project, but because I wasn’t going to be selling a piece made with something from my taboo list, I have to admit that I wasn’t eager to spend a lot of time making beaded caps and metal-free ends to hold a lot of strands woven in and out. I had to come up with something new - an easy way to put lots of beads together in one place.

Picasso Blue Multistrand Necklace

I decided to put my one spool of neglected Nymo to good use, and strung almost the entire packet of seed beads with the Picasso chips and a few black 8/o’s for texture. I wanted to use up as much of the beads as I could, so I left the thread on the spool and watched the strand get longer and longer. When I was running out of ‘good’ beads, I tied the ends together and wove the tails in to get an enormous connected loop of pretty beads.

After that, all I had to do was wrap the strands together into a suitable length, and lashed them with short spiral ropes stitched to a beaded clasp. The necklace has the look and feel of a traditional eye pin multi-strand project, and even twists up nicely. Although I appreciate the softness and drape that the Nymo provides, I think I’ll switch to my Fireline if I ever decide to recreate this piece with better beads. It turned out so nice, I think it’s very likely that I will do it again!

Metal-free Multistrand Necklace Technique

*Wonky is a widely excepted technical term for beads that aren’t quite right.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Collections: Beautiful Bicones

The results are in, and the winner of the faux gems bead giveaway is Pine Ridge Treasures! Congratulations to our winner, and thank you so much to everyone who entered. As always, your answers to the bead question were varied and exciting. This month, we talked about our favorite bead shapes. The winning comment also happened to be the most popular - bicones.

These bead shapes are quite common, thanks to their versatility and good looks. Although we often think of crystals as the ultimate bicones, there are lots of other variations as well. Here are just a few examples of beautiful bicone beads, and how to use them.

Beautiful Bicones Collection

Happy beading!

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A Bracelet a Week: Time Piece

Turquoise Tile Bracelet

I find myself in a bit of a pickle this week - I’m four days behind with last week’s bracelet post, and the weekend is fast approaching. I’m going to count this as a slight hiccup in the challenge, only because I was able to finish the bracelet in the usual time. Photographs and posts are another matter.

I have discovered a new appreciation for beaders, bloggers and handmade sellers who carry on full time day jobs in addition to everything else! I used to think that there weren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done, and now I’m just happy to get the important things out of the way while everything else piles up.

I have been away from the bookstore business for a few years now, and I’m delighted to be back, despite the drastic changes in my daily schedule. I have a lot of reading to catch up on, and loving that as well. I forgot how much I missed having my nose in a book at every opportunity, and I finally have a reason to make use of Goodreads.

I have also discovered that the less time there is for beading, the more reluctant I am to do it. It seems that beading only feels worthwhile if I can devote myself to it totally. I’ve never enjoyed doing something in fits and starts. Things are going to be a little quieter here on Inspirational Beading as the holidays approach, but I’m still determined to keep this challenge going. There are only a handful of weeks left, after all. I hope to see you at the finish line!

Red Leather Belt Bead Palette

In any case, I had an extra day to get some work done last week, and I decided I would take the opportunity to make something different, something that wasn’t a guaranteed success. I went through my list of bracelet ideas from the beginning of the challenge, but of the designs that have yet to be crossed off, I found nothing that appealed to me at the moment. I went through my accent beads, waiting for inspiration, and came away with nothing. What to do?

I decided to let color be my guide instead, and turned to one of the western inspired palettes I had created earlier this month. I really loved the look of jonquil and aqua cube beads with transparent ruby, and created a palette very similar to the original. The cube beads inspired a new bracelet shape, with a square stitch base and bands of right angle weave. I love the watch-like shape of the beadwork, and the simplicity of the three bold colors. It was a risky project, but turned out great!

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Bead Giveaway: Faux Gems

Acrylic Imitation Gemstone Beads

It’s been far too long since we’ve had a bead giveaway. This month, I want to share one of my favorite bead collections - lots of lovely little round beads in imitation gemstone colors. I carefully collected these 6 mm rounds and treasured them for the way they resemble semiprecious stones and quartz. Though they have typical acrylic characteristics - particularly their light weight - they always remind me of some of my favorite beads - druks.

There are over 300 beads in all, with assorted shades of white, brown, blue, green, and even a little pink. To enter for your chance to win these pretty beads, simply leave a comment on this post, and answer the following question:

What is your all time favorite bead shape?

If you do not have a Blogger profile with email contact enabled, be sure to leave a link to your shop or website, or an email address, so that I can contact you if you win!

One lucky winner will be drawn at random on Wednesday, November 23rd.

Good luck, and happy beading!

Copyright 2011 Inspirational Beading
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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wish List: Luscious Lampwork

Lampwork beads are the ultimate material for beading and jewelry designs. The uniqueness of each piece can turn an ordinary necklace or bracelet into a work of art. Although inexpensive factory made lampwork beads are available in large quantities, high quality artisan lampwork designs are the most desired by beaders and crafters.

Even our favorite bead retailers are catching on to the allure of art glass, and many are offering up lampwork beads made with care in the USA. But when it comes to one of a kind beads, individual torch artists provide us with amazing treasures.

Here are just a few examples of the delightful focals, spacers and components available from flamework artists around the world!

Sun Conure Parrot Lampwork Focal
By LandS Arts

Purple and Ivory Pillow Bead by Grace

Spots and Bumps Bead Set
By A & R Beads

Hibiscus Heart Lampwork Focal
By Crazy Lady Glass

Stripes and Frit Lampwork Focal by T-Beads
From FusionBeads

Funky Lampwork Bead Set
By Fluid Glass Art Beads

Cosmo Lampwork Focal by The BeadsNest
From Lima Beads

Reactive Ivory Garden Lampwork Buttons
By Firedance Beads

Burnt Orange Lampwork Rondelles
From Happy Mango Beads

Burned Flowers Pebble Beads
From Venetian Bead Shop

Tok Lampwork Bead Set
By Helen Chalmers

What's your favorite way to use lampwork beads?

Copyright 2011 Inspirational Beading and Friends
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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Wear It Twice: Tribal Twist

I’m always very excited when the time comes to put together a little collage of jewelry and garments with a fun theme and color palette. Exploring different ways to style jewelry with fabrics, textures, cuts and colors is like a creative stretching session. I look forward to it every month, and it’s exciting to find new statement necklaces for each focus.

Animal Prints

This month, I spotted a gorgeous multi-strand necklace with hints of orange and yellow, and a big turquoise drop pendant. I thought it would be fun to pair it with different animal prints, and other elements that would highlight the bold colors. The challenge with animal prints is to avoid too much visual noise, and bring everything together for a polished look.

Both the zebra print dress and asymmetrical leopard top work well with the necklace, and a set of wood bangles with a bit of snakeskin for good measure. Extra splashes of color like turquoise accessories, teal shoes and orange leather boots tie everything together.

Putting together a chic tribal outfit is easy with handmade and vintage options.

Wild Thing Treasury

And here are my favorite Polyvore collages featuring this month’s picks:

I go for tribal prints


autumn time

Everyone Smiles in the same Language :)

On The Go

Do you like to use animal prints in fashion or jewelry?

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