A Bead Journey

Beads – How my passion got started

I have always done something crafty or artsy.  I wanted to go to art school but my parents thought that an art degree wouldn’t be practical.  

My grandmother taught me sewing.  She was a seamstress and worked in a sweatshop mill in upper state New York sewing clothing for a manufacturer until the mill moved south.  I even designed some clothing patterns.  She also taught me knitting.  And being me, I also taught myself to design some knitting patterns – pretty easy ones.  I took a painting class and it didn’t inspire me.  I loved doing needle work in the form of needlepoint and cross stitch.  I was designing cross stitch patterns for a shop in Las Vegas when we lived there.  The owner coaxed me to “name” my business and I chose Desert Bloom. Of course, I instantly designed a pattern in cross stitch for the business.  I showed it to Shirley, the shop owner, and she said “why don’t you add some beads to the design?”  

So I walked into a bead shop….OH MY!

bead journey

Beading can be overwhelming.  What technique did I want to start with?  I chose seed beads for the Desert Bloom cross stitch.  You might not be able to see them in the photo but they are there. And as soon as I finished that project I taught myself how to stitch designs and jewelry with seed beads. 

This is one of the first bracelets I made. (designed the pattern too).  And sold several hundred copies of this pattern online.  I decided that trying to sell the finished product was not feasible.  It takes a long time to complete, and I would never get the price to compensate for the hours of work.

bead journey

I designed more patterns, but I was having a hard time finding button closures.  In the meantime my youngest daughter was in college in Portland, OR and I went up to visit.  I had some time that weekend and decided to attend the Embellishment conference at the Convention Center.  And that is when I saw my first lampworked bead.  Of course I was familiar with Venetian beads.  But the lampwork beads I saw at this convention were tiny works of art.  And I was hooked.  And my journey with glass began in 1997.creating the desert in glass and metal

Druzy – do you like it?

druzy

What Exactly is Druzy?

Druzy quartz is made up of many tiny crystals and it has a velvety and soft appearance to it. There can be large formed crystals or many medium crystals with the formation. Treated colorful crystals are sometimes coated with a film of gold, platinum, sterling silver, or titanium. When the Druzy has titanium on it, this adds cobalt, purple, or various rainbow colors.

In geology, druse refers to a coating of fine crystals on a rock fracture surface.  Druse occurs worldwide; the most common is perhaps quartz druse.  Generally, it is possible to find druzy natural gemstones in any location in which there is a place for water to collect and evaporate on rock. It most often appears along river beds and shorelines. 

Using Druzy in Jewelry

I really love druzy for the sparkle it adds.  It is very distinctive.  And sometimes it adds a flair in the piece of jewelry I’m creating.  It is also cheaper than some other gemstones, so that is also a benefit.

druzy

These are earrings I made a few years back.  I just got some more druzy so this fall I’ll have them in my shop again.

creating the desert in glass and metal

 

Rebranding and Tiny Alien Monsters from the Studio

Rebranding

So I am working with a team to help me rebrand.  

It’s going to take until September.  

I am busy creating a new line which will debut this fall in a brand new shop.  

I am also working with the team to design a new logo and packaging etc etc etc.  

It is time consuming but fun.

Later this summer I will have a flash sale on some old designs.

In the meantime here is a picture of a work in progress in the studio….

rebranding

creating the desert in glass and metal

Those Bad Bad Beads

Virginia Blakelock

I think it can be said that Virginia Blakelock is the mother of the bead movement here in the US.  I bought her book “Those Bad Bad Beads”  along time ago.  And it certainly got me hooked in beading with seed beads.  I still love seed beading but consider it my “hobby” now as my jewelry making has gone in a different direction.  But every now and then I sit down and bead myself something.

Red, White and Blue

American Flag

Last year I sat down one evening to bead this American Flag bracelet because I was going on a trip to Great Britain and would be gone over the Fourth of July.

It was a nice conversation piece.

American Flag

The American flag is the national flag of the United States. It consists of thirteen equal horizontal stripes of red (top and bottom) alternating with white, with a blue rectangle in the canton (referred to specifically as the “union”) bearing fifty small, white, five-pointed stars arranged in nine offset horizontal rows, where rows of six stars (top and bottom) alternate with rows of five stars. The 50 stars on the flag represent the 50 states of the United States of America, and the 13 stripes represent the thirteen British colonies that declared independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, and became the first states in the U.S.  Nicknames for the flag include The Stars and Stripes, Old Glory, and The Star-Spangled Banner.

To me the American Flag is an icon for Americanism.  It has gone through many iterations over the years as states were added to the union.

I was impressed to find out that a 17 year old, Robert G Heft was responsible for designing the current 50 star version of the American Flag.  

He created the flag design in 1958 as a high school class project while living with his grandparents in Ohio.  He received a B− on the project.  According to Heft, his history teacher honored their agreement to change his grade to an A after his design was selected.

I wonder who that history teacher was……………

creating the desert in glass and metal

 

 

Spirals

spiralThe spiral is an ancient symbol. It appeared thousands of years ago in southwestern Native American tribal areas on cave walls and on ancient pottery.  I have read that spirals can mean water, or wind.  The spiral also symbolized a way of planting, starting at the center and moving out in circles as they planted. In Navajo this was called ha’oolmaaz
And the spiral can also be representative of man’s journey on earth.

Spirals in my Art Jewelry

Since a lot of my inspiration comes from the southwestern deserts I use the spiral a lot in my bead designs and silver jewelry.  It’s a soothing stroke to create in glass.

spiral,labyrinth ring

 

Man in the Maze

The Man in the Maze is a type of  labyrinth, represented in the basket making and silversmithing of the American Southwest, especially among the Tohono O’Odham nation.  It usually is characterized by seven concentric circles.  There are many stories about the meaning of the Man in the Maze. Interpretations of the image vary from family to family, and the symbolism is a sacred belief. A common interpretation that the human figure represents the O’odham people. The maze signifies the difficult journey toward finding deeper meaning in life. The twists and turns refer to struggles and lessons learned along the way. At the center of the maze is a circle, which stands either for death or for the ultimate realization of identity or eternity.

I participated in a collaboration with bead artist Heidi Kummli several years ago.  I provided lampworked beads and she created a necklace with them.  The theme of the collaboration was wind, earth, fire and water. I provided her with 5 beads –  the bottom of the piece was one of my artifact beads with a spiral in silver.

spiral

creating the desert in glass and metal

Talisman

Definition

A talisman is an object, typically an inscribed ring or stone, that is thought to have magic powers and to bring good luck.  But it really could be any object that has come to have meaning to you.  To me a talisman is a special piece that evokes a memory and makes you feel good.

Talisman Necklaces

talisman

A few years back I designed and sold a series of “Desert Talisman” necklaces each with their own story.  I sold them all; but of course I had to keep one for myself.  I think of it as my summer necklace.  I first wore it on a trip to the ocean back in 2010.  I called it “Wings” as it was the perfect adornment for a walk on a sandy and breezy beach in the morning looking for shells.  Now when I wear it I think back to that week at the Outer Banks of North Carolina and all of the happy memories.

The necklace is a collection of five elements.  The round bead is a hollow lampworked bead that I made.  It’s surface decoration is a series of scrolls or swirled lines.  Next to it is a beautiful feather that I wired to the necklace.  The orange color in the feather speaks to me.  The third piece is a series of metal disks strung with crystals and beads.  Another piece is a remnant of a coin that I purchased when visiting the Island of Kos in Greece.  I set it in gold with a small amethyst.   The last piece is a stone that I purchased some years back at the gem shows here in Tucson.  It is a fuchsite stone with ruby in it.  Then the stone was tumbled for a lovely matte finish.  All the elements hang from a darkened sterling silver chain.

The necklace slips over the head.  It is 26 inches and when worn hangs about 16 inches including the elements.

Everything except the feather can be cleaned with a damp soft cloth if necessary.  The dark patina will change with age.

talisman

A new series of Desert Talisman necklaces will appear in my new shop this fall.

creating the desert in glass and metal

the Shaman

What is a Shaman?

Hi everyone, I want to talk a little mysticism today.  So I want to delve into a discussion of what exactly is a shaman.

Webster defines a shaman as a priest or priestess who uses magic for the purpose of curing the sick, divining the hidden, and controlling events.  

I’m pretty sure when you hear the word “shamanism,” you might picture feather headdresses, buffalo hides, medicine wheels and dream-catchers—all images associated with Native American cultures. But contrary to popular opinion, a “shaman” is not an Indian medicine man, and “shamanism” is not a Native American religion. In fact, many Native Americans find the terms “shaman” and “shamanism” offensive. The word “shaman” actually originates among the natives of Siberia, where it describes a specialized type of holy person. The shamans of Siberia interact with deities and spirits not only with prayer, ritual and offerings, but also through direct contact with the spirits themselves.

Wow, I’m glad to research this as I didn’t know that.

I was using the word shaman to indicate a symbol used by a medicine man or healer in the Native American culture.  In fact there are several symbols used in Native American spirituality. but calling them shaman is not correct. 

Kachina

A Kachina is a spirit being in western Pueblo beliefs. Kachinas are believed to reside with the tribe for half of each year. They will allow themselves to be seen by a community if its men properly perform a traditional ritual while wearing kachina masks and other regalia. The spirit-being depicted on the mask is thought to be actually present with or within the performer, temporarily transforming him.  

Kachinas are also depicted in small, heavily ornamented carved-wood dolls, which are traditionally made by the men of a tribe and presented to girls (boys receive bows and arrows). These wooden dolls are used to teach the identities of the kachinas and the symbolism of their regalia. The identity of the spirit is depicted not by the form of the doll’s body, which is usually simple and flat, but primarily by the applied color and elaborate feather, leather, and, occasionally, fabric ornamentation of its mask.

There are many types of kachinas – for instance bean kachina is used for making crops grow.  And buffalo kachina assures that there will be plentiful food in the winter.

A Kachina in my work

Awhile back I made this piece which I love to wear on special occasions.  I am glad to know that it would be considered a Kachina.  I have designated it blue sky kachina.  Wear it and all your days will have blue skys.

First I made the pendant.

Then the necklace

shaman kachina

carnelian and turquoise….

I designed it so you can wear it with or without the pendant

the pendant will slide on the necklace

 

kachina shaman

kachina shaman

I consider this a prototype…  

definitely more kachinas to come


So the rebranding is progressing

new wesite

new shop

stay tuned  for September

and if you want I’ll keep you posted

 

blog post button

creating the desert in glass and metal

 

Hematite – a stone I love to wear

hematite - photo of cabochons for art jewelry

Designing with Hematite

Aren’t those stones just fantastic?

I love wearing hematite.  The color is fantastic….  not quite black more a steel gray.  I also like to patina my silver to a dark gray so making these stones pop is going to present me with a little problem I have to solve.

I could use a gold bezel and I have ordered some.  Of course that is going to make the price of the piece significantly higher even though gold prices have gone down a little.  A foot of gold bezel wire just cost me $85.00.  But I will figure it all out…. that’s half of the fun.

About Hematite

Hematite is an iron oxide mineral (not a crystal) with a very unique look that is hard to confuse with any other stone. The name hematite comes from the latin word “blood stone”, because when it’s found naturally and broken open, it has a layer of rust on the inside.

Hematite is probably the most common stone used to balance and calm people. This is because hematite is very grounding, and helps to keep the mind focused on the moment. This stone is considered to be closely related to the root chakra.

Since hematite is such a powerful grounding energy, it’s great to use when things are overwhelming or you feel like you can’t think straight.

Specular Hematite

The photo above is some Specular hematite that I have purchased over the years.  Specular Hematite crystal is also called Specularite and is a beautiful variety of hematite that has a rich metallic luster on a sparkling silvery polished surface. Specular Hematite stone encourages you to to release judgement about whether you are spiritual or not. It reminds you to pursue your dreams.  It can help you release self-recrimination about your spiritual growth and self worth.

Right now I have six rings and one pendant in process using these 7 stones.  Part of the new collection which will be unveiled in September.  I know that seems really far off.  But I am rebranding at the same time as I work on this collection…  so I’m updating my website, building a new online store for a better customer experience.  And then there is all the other stuff that needs to get ordered… new business cards, packaging, and more.  Plus some holiday time over the summer…..  So September is really not that far away.  Whew I’ve got a lot to do.

Thanks for looking.  The rings will be made in various sizes, so if you see a particular stone now and want a certain size ring let me know.

creating the desert in glass and metal

 

Chain – an essential for jewelry

Chains for my art jewlery

Everybody has chains in their jewelry armory.  You can wear them alone…  layer them… add a pendant.  They really are essential.

And there are thousands of commercial chain styles out there.  

Sometimes I buy chain by the foot to put with handmade pieces of my art jewelry.  I then add my own clasp or I segment it with handmade lampworked beads.  Buying commercial chain helps to keep the cost down of the piece of jewelry I am fabricating.

But sometimes a piece of art jewelry I make screams to have a special handmade chain; and for the last couple of days I have been hand making one for a pendant.  It is time consuming.

Cut the wire
Form the jump rings
Saw the jump rings (tedious)
Solder the jumprings
Make the clasp
Put it all together
Tumble it in shot for 8 hours (I don’t like to polish chain on a machine as it can be dangerous)

Here is a chain I am working on now.  Had to stop to order more wire…..  (It hasn’t been tumbled yet.)

chain

But I love the end result.

creating the desert in glass and metal

Desert Inspiration

It’s springtime in the desert and all of the plants are really showing off this year…..  and blooming early.

Inspiration on my side porch

We have a small porch off of our bedroom and when I first moved into the house in Tucson I nicknamed it the Margarita Porch.  It faces west so I thought sitting on that porch watching the sunset with a margarita would be absolutely nirvana.  But as it would happen sipping the margaritas from the pool or hot tub became the place instead.

So this little porch has sat unadorned until a few weeks ago my husband thought it would be a good idea to create some container gardens….

For the first one we got some cactus and succulent plants and this is what happened this week.

desert inspiration

 

 

desert inspiration

WOW!

The plant is called Echinopsis.

It’s nickname is Easter Lily Cactus

the flowers … they are extraordinary. Often 4″, 5″ or even 6″ in diameter

and frequently much larger than the cactus that produced them. 

Such a shame the flowers only last a day after opening,

but I am thankful to have captured its beauty

Echin” comes from the Greek word “Ekihnos,” which meant both sea urchin and hedgehog.

The “opsis” at the end of Echinopsis is another Greek word, one which means “resembling” or “appearance.” 

And it is definitely desert inspiration for some art jewelry.

creating the desert in glass and metal

Have a superb weekend!!