Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Bracelet a Week: Pink Fire Polish

Pink and Gray Bead Palette

One of my favorite things about extended beading challenges is the opportunity to try out new things, and rotate some of the materials in my bead stash. What better time is there to finally get around to using beads that have just been hanging around?

This week I decided to tackle a packet of pink fire polish beads that I had purchased earlier this year. I picked them up because they so closely resembled the 2011 It color, Honeysuckle. Then I put them away and basically forgot all about them.

To make sure that I could use as many of the beads as possible - hopefully all of them at once - I wanted a bracelet design that could hold a lot of accent beads. I started by choosing a base color, and the first thing that caught my eye was colonial gray lined crystal. They have a shimmer that matches the finish on the fire polish perfectly. Plus gray and pink always look fabulous together.

Pink and Gray Grid Cuff

Next I had to decide on a technique that would allow both beads lots of room to play. I finally decided on openwork right angle weave, with the fire polish stitched in at the end. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to get the width that I wanted, and be able to cover the entire cuff with pink accents, but I went ahead anyway, hoping that the right pattern would come to mind as I worked.

When it came time to add the fire polish, I had no idea what I was going to do. I thought about doing a random network of columns, but I didn’t like the uncertainty. Instead, I decided to make some pyramids.

The pattern turned out great, and there were only a few fire polish left over. I love the look of the raised pink triangles, and recessed gray ones. I wonder what other inspirations are now lurking in the bead cupboard?

Copyright 2011 Inspirational Beading
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Friday, April 29, 2011

Blog Spotlight: Beads for Brains 365

If you’ve been following along on Inspirational Beading over the past several months, you know that there’s nothing I enjoy more than a good challenge. Whether it’s entering a single piece into a competition, or creating a set of personal beading goals, I’m up for it. Not only are beading challenges great for creativity, but they can make for excellent blogging as well.

Enter Beads for Brains: 365, a beading challenge inspired by Noah Scalin, the mastermind behind the Skull a Day project, and author of 365: Make Something Every Day and Change Your Life!365: Make Something Every Day and Change Your Life!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tribal Fringe Necklace

Boxwood Buttons and Cherry Brand Beads

My mission to discover and try out new and interesting beads every month has sparked a new obsession. After falling in love with African Christmas beads, I find myself wanting to use them in everything, and I’m always on the lookout for other exotic trade beads to add to my repertoire.

I found March’s new beads somewhat by accident, and although they aren’t trade beads, I couldn’t resist using them in a tribal design. I came across them while searching for some metal-free shank buttons for an upcoming PDF tutorial. I was thrilled when I found these adorable carved boxwood buttons with animal designs from Unique Buttons on ArtFire.

I was pleased not only with the design, but the price as well, so I kept looking around, and found the most amazing lizard button, which I’m sure will make an appearance in an upcoming challenge bracelet. Then I stumbled across a pair of horn shaped vintage Cherry Brand beads. They are so gorgeous, with beautiful yellow, white and brown stripes. I just had to scoop them up!

Tribal Inspired Mixed Bead Palette

It took awhile to decide exactly how I was going to use these beauties. The curved shape makes them tough to design with, especially without using beading wires. I decided that suspending them in a necklace would be best, so that movement would help them look at home. And because I wanted to use both beads, I had to find a way to achieve a nice balance.

Then I had to choose a palette, and a technique for the necklace base. After going through my bead stash, making sketches, and imagining different approaches, I finally decided to make an eclectic charm necklace on a herringbone base. I was tempted to go with an ice cream palette, since the beads have a sort of banana-and-butterscotch-ripple thing going on. But it would be tricky to make it look elegant, and allow the beads to blend in to the design. Luckily, my need to use trade beads everywhere took over, and I came up with a wild and fun African-inspired palette instead. I included a single bead just larger than the horns as a focal piece, as much to keep them from clinking together as for looks.

This was one of the most difficult necklaces I’ve ever made. The techniques are simple, but I ended up using a size 13 needle for the entire rope section, and after a few days of work, I was afraid I had ruined my stitching arm. And here’s a handy tip: straight needles cannot pass through curved beads. Luckily, I have a packet of twisted wire needles, and they worked perfectly.

Wise Woman Tribal Fringe Necklace

I actually completed this piece weeks ago, but I’ve been keeping it under wraps, waiting to see if it was chosen as a finalist in this year’s Bead Star competition. This is the first year that the contest has had a category for beadweaving, and I was very excited to enter something.

The Bead Star contest is hosted by Interweave Press and Beading Daily, with prizes provided by some incredible companies like and Beadalon. There are categories for seed beads, crystals, metals and other materials, as well as a fun heart inspired category. There are some absolutely gorgeous designs to see and vote on this year. Best of luck to everyone who entered!

Meanwhile, I’m still on the hunt for exciting new beads. So far I’ve discovered some amazing new styles and shops, and I’ve got months to go. I have a feeling that I’ll want to keep up with this little tradition beyond 2011.

What new discoveries or experiments in beading have you made this year?

Copyright 2011 Inspirational Beading
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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Inspired By Nefertiti and Cleopatra

Is it a coincidence that two of history’s most legendary beauties both came from Ancient Egypt? I think it’s fitting, since theirs was a culture that thrived on aesthetics, and considered even death to be a thing of beauty. The Ancient Egyptians were the first people to elevate writing, drawing and sculpture beyond essential trades to true art forms.

Nefertiti and Cleopatra Photo Collage

1. Nefertiti,
2. Cleopatra con el faraón, 3. Unfinished Head of Nefertiti, 4. Cleopatra, 5. Antigo Egito - Akhenaton e Nefertiti,
6. Cleopatra, 7. Queen Nefertiti, 8. Cleopatra, 9. Nefertiti Crown,
10. Nefertiti Model, 11. Cleopatra, 12. Nefertiti, 13. Cleopatra billboard

Nefertiti and Cleopatra have been the inspiration behind a great many works of art, films, books, fashions, and even jewelry. The use of color in Egyptian jewelry was not just for looks, but also for spiritual purposes. Gold was considered the flesh of the gods, and stones such as lapis and carnelian had their own special place in even the most mundane of objects. Here a just a few amazing handmade designs with the royal Egyptian flair:

Egyptian Inspired Handmade Jewelry

Cleopatra Lampwork Bracelet, If Cleopatra Lived in Texas, La Cleopatra Choker

It’s interesting that these two women would be the most recognizable Egyptian queens. They lived and ruled 1300 years apart, and were quite different in many ways. It would make more sense to compare Nefertiti to Hatshepsut - the first and longest reigning female pharaoh.

Cleopatra technically belongs among the likes of Helen of Troy, for she was actually of Greek descent. She was the last pharaoh of Egypt, ruling after the time of Alexander the Great. Though she came from Greece and associated with Romans, Cleopatra embraced the culture of Egypt, and was one of few royals to learn the language.

Nefertiti by ~LevinaTEG on deviantART

cleopatra by ~juliasan on deviantART

There were so many wonderful illustrations inspired by Nefertiti and Cleopatra, that I couldn’t possibly show them all here. You can see more favorites in a gallery of Nefertiti and Cleopatra deviations.

Which Egyptian queen is your favorite?

Copyright 2011 Inspirational Beading and Friends
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Monday, April 25, 2011

Bead Spotlight: Ceramic and Porcelain

Like classic saltwater pearls, ceramic and porcelain beads can add a special old-world charm to jewelry designs. They come in a beautiful variety of shapes and styles, from textured pendants to hand painted tubes. Some of the most amazing stoneware beads and focals are created by skilled artisans, and are treasured for their one of a kind nature.

Beautiful Ceramic Beads and Pendants

Ceramic Rectangle Pendant, Greek Patinaed Bronze Ceramic Beads,
Earthenwood Studio Ceramic Toadstool Charm, Ancient Mosaic Tile Beads

Red Dragon Ceramic Bead, Vintage Ladybug Macrame Bead,
Speckled Oval Ceramic Beads, Chinese Painted Ceramic Beads

One of the most common materials used to make ceramics, pottery and porcelain is kaolin - a layered silicate mineral, also called white clay or china clay. The molded clay is hardened at extreme temperatures in a kiln, forming solid and beautiful pieces with delightfully earthy qualities. Glazes applied before the ceramic pieces are fired not only make them more durable, but add to their beauty as well.

Did you know? Kaolin comes from large mines all over the world, and is also a common ingredient for making glossy paper, toothpaste, incandescent light bulbs, paint and can be used as a pest deterrent in organic farming.

Ceramic and Porcelain Jewelry Designs

Ceramic Bead Bee Charm Bracelet, A Mix of Seasons Ceramic Necklace,
Ceramic Dragonfly Necklace, Red and White Sea Pottery Necklace

Straw Fields Pendant Necklace, Ceramic Bees with Gold Tone Earrings,
OOAK Ceramic Beaded Bracelet, Black and Red Ceramic Beaded Necklace

Do you like to use ceramics in your designs? What is your favorite style, shape or finish to work with?

Copyright 2011 Inspirational Beading and Friends
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Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Bracelet a Week: Easter Eggs

Pastel Herringbone Bracelet

Another week has come and gone, and I am enjoying this bracelet challenge more and more. I had no idea that I could relish making new bracelets so much. Having this motivation not only helps me to come up with new ideas, but adds to the excitement of trying them out.

This week, I wanted to experiment with a technique I haven’t used in ages - graduated tubular herringbone. The very first time I ever attempted it, I was limited to just three seed bead sizes, and it didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped. Now that my bead stash is a little more sophisticated, I thought it was time to revive the stitch and see what happened.

In order to get a really broad range of bead sizes, I wanted my base to be smaller than an 11/o, but 15/o seed beads seemed much too flimsy for the job of holding up bigger herringbone bobbles. So I went to delicas to start my palette, and chose a tube of lovely matte transparent grays.

Cool Pastel Seed Bead Palette

Since it was coming up on Easter weekend, I added different sizes and shapes of beads in cool pastels to go with the gray. Normally, I really love to photograph my bead picks in their little cups, but there are far too many to capture in this palette (I just didn‘t feel like spilling them all out at once). Instead, I thought I’d share a rare glimpse of my actual beading station, moments before I began working on this bracelet.

The palette includes: 11/o wisteria lined crystal, 11/o opaque lustered turquoise, sapphire lined light sapphire Miyuki triangles, 8/o dichroic lined cornflower blue, 8/o fuchsia lined aqua, 6/o Czech ceylon pearl, 6/o Miyuki purple lined crystal AB, 4mm opaque gray lined cubes, and 4mm light jonquil lined aqua cubes. I later added some 8/o raspberry lined crystal beads as well.

It was so fun to have all of these beads laid out on my tray at one time, especially because I almost never get a chance to use delicas or cubes, and they all looked so pretty in their little cups and coasters. The bead tray I use is actually the lid of a veggies and dip container, and at about four bucks, it’s one of the best beading investments I’ve ever made. The round shape is especially handy for projects like this one, because I can place the beads along the outer edge, and rotate the tray for easy transitions.

Easter Egg Bracelet

I was a little worried halfway through the first increase that the bobbles would be too boxy thanks to the cubes at the center, but they rounded out again as the beads decreased, and I love the shape. Sizing was a bit of a hassle, and it took a lot of pondering to decide where to stop to get just the right length. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to finish the pattern as smoothly as I would have liked, but I’m still happy with the bracelet overall. It actually turned out a lot more sophisticated than I had hoped it would.

Happy Easter!

Copyright 2011 Inspirational Beading
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Friday, April 22, 2011

Wear It Twice: The Great Outdoors

Even though cold, wet or snowy weather provides the perfect excuse to stay at home and get some beading done, the arrival of spring is a welcome one. After all, some of the best inspiration comes from nature, and it’s always best when viewed in person.

It’s time to start planning some fun outdoor pursuits, stretch our legs, and get a little sun. And what better way to motivate ourselves than with some great spring attire?

Today I found the most interesting Proenza Schouler necklace, perfect for a girl who occasionally likes to play rough. It’s made from climbing ropes, with lots of fun color and texture. The stone dangles add sparkle and a playful element that I couldn’t resist.

For a pretty approach, I started with a cute cinched waist dress with crystal embellishments. It’s smart and comfy, and it has pockets - great for collecting treasures along the beach, perhaps. In case it’s a little windy, I paired it with pale gray patterned tights and a wool shawl. A pair of crochet ankle boots and a black Juicy Couture tote add a little tenacity, and a simple flower ring picks up on the yellow cords of the necklace.

The second outfit is a little more versatile, with a great pair of black cargos and a pretty blue V-neck blouse. Simple black oxfords and a many-pocketed Balenciaga jacket give it a go-anywhere edge, but the denim blue and leather backpack help maintain the outdoorsy look. I finished things with a very wearable Murano glass ring in yellow and amber.

The companion bracelet I chose for both outfits is a charming little number, with plaited leather and tassels, and lots of beads that match the blue and neutral palette. I love the texture and movement, which plays along nicely with our mountain climbing neck piece.

Gotta have handmade and vintage? I found these gorgeous pieces for a day at the park:

Spring Fashion Picks for Outdoorsy Girls

And here a few of my favorite Polyvore sets, featuring this month’s picks:

What inspiring things will you be doing outside this year?

Copyright 2011 Inspirational Beading and
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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Book Spotlight: Rejuvenated Jewels

Rejuvenated Jewels: New Designs from Vintage Treasures

Some trends come and go, but it would seem that upcycled and repurposed jewelry is here to stay. This is good news, and not only because of the way this craft keeps things out of the landfill. Preserving objects from the past, and making something new out of something old, is a rewarding practice with beautiful results.

Although I stay away from wire and chain work, I long to take apart old jewelry and make it my own. It’s probably lucky for me and my wallet that there are no flea markets within shopping distance. I could spend a lot of hours looking through cigar boxes and trays of forgotten jewels.

When I picked up a copy of Rejuvenated JewelsRejuvenated Jewels: New Designs from Vintage Treasuresby Amy Hanna, I expected typical craft book projects that would provide a little inspiration. I did not expect to be glued to the pages, and practically drooling over the designs within. This book ought to come with a warning label: Caution, May Incite Uncontrollable Bargain Shopping and Attic Rummaging.

After an in depth look at some of vintage jewelry’s most precious components and qualities, basic materials and found objects, Amy gives readers an introduction to preparing both new and old jewelry components for designing. Step by step tutorials with clear diagrams also explain some jewelry basics like wrapped loops and crimping.

Upcycled Jewelry by Amy Hanna

The following five chapters are filled with gorgeous and intriguing jewelry designs, made with everything from vintage photographs to military ribbons. There are 36 necklace, bracelet and earring projects in total, each with a complete materials list and instructions for making your own variations.

Most of the designs are simple and straightforward, and provide an excellent guide to designing jewelry from found objects. There are no step-by-step photographs for the individual projects. Absolute beginners to the world of jewelry making may want to practice on newer, more replaceable materials and objects before attempting to drill, file and rejuvenate rare finds.

Copyright 2011 Inspirational Beading and Quarry Books
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Monday, April 18, 2011

Bead Wish List: Seed Bead Cocktails

I can’t speak for all beaders, but personally, I don’t really like working with seed bead mixes. When I'm planning a design, the colors and shapes that I select each have a specific job to do, and sorting through a mix just isn’t that fun.

If I do want an assortment of beads, for a spiral or freeform piece, I like to make my own. So why is it that I am so drawn to bead mixes? Every time they appear, I want to have them for my own. Perhaps it’s the explosion of color, which ignites creativity, or the illusion of vastness that an assortment of beads creates.

Either way, they are so hard to resist, it almost makes one want to do freeform work all the time, just to try them all. Here are just a few of my favorite seed bead cocktails:

Blue Frost Bead Mix from
Blue Frost Bead Mix by TOHO

Tropicooler Seed Bead Cocktail from Rings and Things
Tropicooler Seed Bead Cocktail by TOHO
from Rings & Things

Turquoise and Coral Bead Mix from
Turquoise and Coral Miyuki Bead Mix
from Aunties Beads

Georgia Earth Tone Bead Mix from The Bead Stylist
Georgia Earth Tones Miyuki Cube Bead Mix
from The Bead Stylist

Momiji Red Seed Bead Mix from
Momiji Red TOHO Seed Bead Mix
from Lima Beads

Serenity Bead Mix from
Serenity Miyuki Seed Bead Mix
from Bead My Love

Caribbean Seafoam Seed Bead Mix from Earthly Possessions
Caribbean Seafoam Seed Bead Mix
from Earthly Possessions

Matte Rainbow Delica Bead Mix from
Matte Rainbow Delica Bead Mix
from Beadaholique

Picasso Perfect Seed Bead Mix from
Picasso Perfect Seed Bead Mix
from A Grain of Sand

Norther Lights Exclusive Bead Mix from
Northern Lights Seed Bead Mix
by Whimbeads

Dusky Evening Seed Bead Mix from TUTreasures
Dusky Evening E Bead Mix
from Totally Unique Treasures

Caribe Seed Bead Mix from
Caribe Seed Bead Mix

Seed and Bugle Bead Mix from
One Pound Seed and Bugle Bead Assortment
from Fire Mountain Gems and Beads

Twilight in the Canyon Mix from SpiritBearBeads
Twilight in the Canyon Seed Bead Mix
by Spirit Bear Beads

Small African Christmas Beads from
And my personal favorite!
Small African Christmas Trade Beads
from Happy Mango Beads

Do you like to buy pre-mixed beads, or come up with your own unique concoctions? What’s your all time favorite color combination?

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

7000 Bracelets for Hope

Blue Jeans Corsage Bracelet

This week’s bracelet is very special. Earlier this month, I got word through Twitter that Lori Anderson of Pretty Things was hosting a blog hop challenge, inviting beaders and designers to create a bracelet for the Global Genes Project’s 7000 Bracelets for Hope campaign, and I happily got on board.

The purpose of the campaign is to show support for families that are affected by rare disease, and of course to help raise awareness about Global Genes and their efforts. I found it very exciting that Lori’s challenge would fall into my lap while I was doing my own bracelet challenge. It was meant to be.

All I had to do was push back my ideas by one week, and come up with a design using a blue jeans theme. I hadn’t planned on repeating any designs so early in my challenge, but inspiration really took over this time.

Blue Jeans Corsage Bracelet

As I was pondering what to make, and how to recreate the look of denim, I kept seeing hints of copper (buttons and grommets and zippers) on dark blue. I went through my bead stash, and picked out some very denim-like blues - abalone lined crystal and dichroic lined cornflower.

I don’t have any metal beads or components, so I had to come up with another way to add that hint of orangey brown that I kept seeing in my imagination. I was really drawn to the patterned wood rounds that I use to make big brick stitch buttons and flowers. As soon as I put the beads together, I saw a big blue flower bracelet, like my Spring Corsage from week three.

The bracelet turned out so nice, though I sort of wish I had used a third blue for the flower. This time I added more wood beads to the bracelet band, and I love the contrast of color. I’ll be mailing this one out right away, and I hope that it can help its new owner smile.

There are so many talented jewelry bloggers taking part in this campaign. You can see some of the previous contributions on the 7000 Bracelets list, and visit all of the blogs in Lori’s bracelet challenge today, to see what they created. Here are a few of my favorite blogs from the list:

The Bead Dreamer
Brandi Girl
Stefanies Sammelsurium
Staci Louise Originals
Linda’s Bead Blog & Meanderings
Lutka and Co.
Treasures Found
The Impatient Crafter

Stop by Pretty Things to see the complete list of participants in the 7000 Bracelets for Hope Hop - there are over 100 of us! If you missed out on the hop, but you would still like to contribute, visit the Global Genes website to learn more about making and sending your own blue bracelet.

On a side note, I have also completed the jewelry sets that I was making for some fundraisers closer to home. Earlier this week, I shared my first attempt at mixing pink and orange with green and brown. I was able to make it work, and finished the pendant, plus a ring to go with it that almost matches. I ended up adding a new shade of green for the ring band - I don’t think pink would have looked quite right. I also talked about color palettes that don't need any extra help to get along - the second set is one example of those. I do love the sweet and sour combination of green and purple.

English Garden Pendant and Ring SetSpring Flowers Pendant and Ring Set

One of my favorite things about the ability to create, is being able to give my time and energy to causes that matter to me, and know that it will help in some small way. What’s the most amazing or warm and fuzzy thing you‘ve ever done with creativity? I’d love to hear your story!

Copyright 2011 Inspirational Beading
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Friday, April 15, 2011

Bead Color Triads: Ukrainian Easter Eggs


When I think of Ukrainian Easter eggs, I think of intricate patterns in red and yellow on a shell dyed pitch black. Although the art form of pysanky has evolved to include every color, shape and pattern imaginable, I am always taken back so some strange and obscure Sesame Street video about making these beautiful little eggs in black, red and yellow.

With Easter weekend right around the corner, it is very tempting to use bead palettes that include plenty of pastels and lush spring color. I thought it would be fun to be a little different, and look at bead triads with deep reds, yellows and black.

Although these hues seem more suited to fall than spring, there is an advantage to using them in designs at this time of year. Because the colors are so bold and absorb your gaze, you can use fewer beads to make a big impact. Warmer weather calls for lightweight, easy to wear jewelry, and the heat of summer is closer than we think!

So, I went through my bead stash and tried to find creative ways to combine these three colors with beads. I had a really hard time naming the palettes this month, so the titles need some improvement. If any of them inspire you with a fun name, let me know!

Ukrainian Egg Color Palette

First we have Midnight Magic. The very first beads I went to were jet black Swarovski rivolis. I can’t think of any other bead that absorbs the light quite like they do. Although they do have the signature Swarovski sparkle and glint, the black is as deep as it gets. For a bezel, I added lemon yellow 15/o’s, and transparent ruby 11/o seed beads.

Midnight Magic Bead Palette

Circus Midnight started with opaque cherry red druks. No matter how I arranged them, I kept seeing clown noses. With black delicas and opaque yellow 8/o seed beads, it’s like a clown costume from some macabre carnival - very Ray Bradbury.

Circus Midnight Bead Palette

Magic Dawn is an all seed bead palette, though the different shapes create new possibilities and room to improvise. I think this palette would make a great spiral rope, with ruby hexes at the core, lustered dandelion 11/o rounds for the base, and matte black magatamas in the middle for texture.

Magic Dawn Bead Palette

Just like bead weaving, decorating eggs in the Ukrainian style is a hobby that many people think requires a great deal of patience and skill. I highly recommend having a browse through some of the beautiful and carefree designs by artists on Flickr. It’s clear that this art form is just as open to interpretation and whimsy as any other - it’s only hard work if you don’t like doing it.

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