Bead Treasure

Whenever I travel to Michigan, I always love to stop by Munro’s in Berkeley and see what they have in stock. Sometimes my visit coincides with one of their sales. This time I hit the jackpot with a sale on all their freshwater pearls (25% off) and Chinese crystal (50% off!).

I also love their extensive and reasonably priced selection of stone beads. However, I find that one of the drawbacks about buying stone there as opposed to my experience at bead shows is that their sales staff is not always that knowledgeable about the names of the stones and not all of the bead strands are labeled. I like to know exactly what it is that I’m spending my money on, don’t you?

This time I was drawn to fire agate, carnelian, labradorite and iolite – a gorgeous sunset color combination.

The photo above just doesn’t do justice to the amazing cinnamon color of the big crystal beads on top.  They’re such a yummy, spicy fall color.

I’ve recently purchased Sherry Serafini’s new book called Sensational Bead Embroidery and am feeling inspired to create a bead embroidery piece using small pearls in the vivid blues and greens above.

My absolute favorite bead store is Bead Haven in Frankenmuth, a quaint little Bavarian style village my parents love to visit for their homestyle chicken dinners. I was delighted that the restaurant, called Zehnder’s, had a vegetarian section on their menu. That said, their specialty always has been and will continue to be their “Thanksgiving-like” spreads.

But I digress…

I have one main reason for visiting Bead Haven and that is for their amazing selection of seed beads. Wall upon wall of every size and color imaginable along with a whole wall dedicated to hanks of charlottes and “faceted” seed beads, my new love as you can see from my pictures.

While their selection of seed beads is unparalleled, I find their stone bead pricing to be very high. Munro’s and/or a bead show is much more reasonable.

Other than checking out, I didn’t have much contact with their sales staff since I was on my seed bead mission and didn’t require any assistance with that. My daughter, however, had an interesting experience when she purchased a “Pandora” style bead for her bracelet, which she was wearing, and then discovered that it didn’t fit. They were very agreeable about exchanging it for another bead though. In contrast to Munro’s, the sales staff at Bead Haven was all quite young.

There are 2 bead shows in town this weekend, the InterGem show and the Innovative Beads Expo, both in Marlboro, MA. At this time, however, my pocketbook is telling me that I have enough to play with!

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” ~George Bernard Shaw

Ribbon Bracelets

Throughout all of my years of playing with seed beads, one of my most favorite off loom stitches is herringbone weave. Also known as Ndebele stitch, it is the traditional beading stitch of the South African Ndebele tribe. They create the most amazing beadwork in colorful, geometric patterns which they also paint onto their houses. I imagine a beautiful village full of vibrant color and pattern where women sit in a circle and bead together.

With this stitch, pairs of beads are woven in such a way that they stand in a v-shape next to each other, creating a very strong fabric of beads. I just love the feel of this bead “fabric”.

In my playtime with this weave, I created these bracelets that remind me so much of colorful ribbon. They feel wonderful encircling my wrist and are a great way to showcase a special bead or button as part of the clasp.

For my bracelets’ clasps (in the order above), I used a beaded Swarovski rivoli, a stamped and gilded polyclay button and my version of polyclay faux turquoise. For my faux turquoise version, I used Tory Hughes’ faux amber technique (from her book “Polymer, The Chameleon Clay“) and just used turquoise-colored clay instead. A simple peyote stitch loop completes the clasp.

I used size 11 seed beads woven with 6 lb. “smoke” Fireline thread and to create interest, I inserted size 6 beads down the middle length. I love the idea of embedding beads with this stitch and would love to explore this idea further by placing the embedded beads in a random pattern. Does anyone know how to do free-form herringbone? That’s another idea I’d like to play with.

Tomorrow morning I travel to Michigan to visit my family so there won’t be a Saturday Morning Tea post this weekend. I will rejoin you the following Saturday to share a cup of tea once again. During my time in MI, I’m looking forward to another trip to Beadhaven in Frankenmuth. Their seed bead selection is beyond fabulous! Oh joy!

Have a wonderful week, dear friends.

Making Earrings in the Build Zone

Right on the heels of the Of Towers and Turrets workshop I took online, I decided to sign up for Deryn Mentock’s The Build Zone workshop. I like Deryn’s down-to-earth teaching style and since I’ve been resurrecting my wireworking skills lately, I thought it would be a great refresher experience for me.

Just as its name implies, this class is all about building skills so you can create a fabulous piece of jewelry. Some of the skills I’ve learned in this class are making a balled headpin using a torch (now I have 2 torches!), making S-links with wire (see above) and making twisted wire jumprings (see below), to name a few.

My ultimate goal is to bring together all of the skills I’ve learned in this workshop and create a necklace. Since I have very limited studio time these days, all I’ve managed to do so far is to collect some beads and a focal piece. I originally thought that I’d create a polymer clay focal but I happened to be out bead shopping one day and this whimsical, winged fairy pendant sort of jumped out at me. She’s so sweet that I decided to bring her home so she could be the focal of a mystical, “Midsummer Night’s Dream”-y piece. Hey, maybe I can get my necklace done by midsummer…

I love these earrings. They’re very long but quite lightweight for their size. Whenever I wear them, I have this compulsion to keep turning my head back and forth because I love the feel of them swinging against my neck!

After a long, hard New England winter, I’ve felt a burst of spring’s energy lately that has inspired me to dig out the numerous bead-y UFOs strewn about my studio, some I started a couple of years ago. It feels great to line them all up on my table and dream about where I was when I started them and where I would like to go to finish each piece.

Spring has returned.  The Earth is like a child that knows poems.

~Rainer Maria Rilke

Playing with Wire


I’ve been fascinated with wire for as long as I can remember.

I love its versatility and strength for jewelry making. You can bend it into shapes, use it for connections and wrap it around beads. And it’s such an accessible form of metal, requiring only a few simple hand tools to manipulate into a beautiful creation.

When I was visiting my son and his family in Albuquerque last November, we visited a LBS, Mama’s Minerals. It was a good thing that Brendan was with me or I would have become lost in the vortex of bead lust, putting myself into extreme debt and not being able to close my suitcase! If you’re ever in Albuquerque in search of beads, I recommend a stop at this amazing store.

Anyway, we had decided to create a bracelet for my SIL for Christmas and it was up to Bren to choose the beads. I love his choice, don’t you? Before he started his quest, I gently suggested beads that had a southwest feel to them and these Saturn jasper beads he chose, in bands of turquoise and brown, are just perfect.

I love the look of the antiqued, coiled wire against the striking banding in the stone.

Shortly after I came home, I picked up Kerry Bogert’s book, Totally Twisted: Innovative Wirework & Art Glass Jewelry, at the library and became enchanted with Kerry’s colorful wire designs. I chose the project on page 88, “Framed”, for the bracelet.

You can’t really tell from the photos but the wire coils are made from copper wire and the wire wraps on the beads, as well as the clasp, are made from sterling silver wire. I love the look of mixed metals and silver and copper are my favorites.

This was a great project to hone my wireworking skills, especially for wire coiling. I used a tiny double pointed knitting needle for that job.

I love this design so much that I think I’m going to make a bracelet for myself now! I have the beads picked out already – round coins of earthy Owyhee jasper. This is a great description I came across recently – “soft earthy colors of clay, teal, sage, brick, sand, umber with brush strokes of bark brown”. Wow.  It’s a beautiful picture jasper, mined in southern Idaho/eastern Oregon.

When I was a kid, I owned a well thumbed, dog-eared copy of a pocket-sized rocks and minerals book. I used to pour over that book for hours…I just love rocks.

Saturday Morning Tea

This past week has been sooooo cold here in New England and it’s not even officially winter yet. Yesterday morning brought single digits temps to our area. Brrr… 10 more days til Winter Solstice and the longest night of the year. I’ve often thought about how our early ancestors must have felt, experiencing the growing darkness and not knowing that it would eventually recede and the lighter days would come back again. No wonder there was much celebration at this time of year, honoring the Return of the Sun.

Ok, on to tea. My morning tea is an Oolong from China, appropriately called Eastern Beauty with its gorgeous full leaf and amazing honeyed aroma.

Back in August, I dedicated the whole month to Oolong, or Wulong, teas. You can start reading about this wonderful type of tea here.

I steeped the tea leaves for 4 minutes in 180 degree F water.

The intense honey aroma greeted me as I poured my first cup. Mmmm….

I love how the color of the liquor reflects the distinct aroma of this tea.

So warm and inviting.

The flavor is silky smooth with notes of honey and flowers and a hint of chestnut in the finish. At this gift buying time of year, a sample of this tea would make an exquisite gift for the Oolong lover on your list. I know that it’s going in a few of my stockings.

You’ve probably noticed the amazing art paper I’ve used as a background today. My dear friend, Amy, found it during her recent trip to Italy. Over dinner the other night, she told us how when they discovered the shop that her husband knew she would be in there for awhile. I’m honored with her beautiful gift. Thanks Amy!

I know that I’ve been sorely neglecting the “art” part of my blog these past months. During this busy time of year, it’s been so challenging to get any kind of time in my studio. What I have been up to though is gift making with my pointy sticks to bring warmth to heads, necks and hearts. My goal in the new year is to get back to my art and sharing it with all of you.

“Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.
~Nathaniel Hawthorne

Saturday Morning Tea

Jun, “moon”. Chiya, “tea”. Bari, “garden”.

Jun Chiyabari. Moon tea garden.

It conjures up images of an exotic place, filled with lush tea bushes bathed in the dreamy light of a full moon.

Back in 2000, 2 brothers, Bachan and Lochan Gyawali, along with a former schoolmate, manifested their “moon tea garden” dream when they established the Jun Chiyabari tea garden in the hills surrounding the small town of Hile in the eastern Himalayan region of Nepal.

Working with small, local farmers to encourage and support them in keeping ownership of their land for tea cultivation, the team’s primary focus is on quality of leaf not quantity. They pay the farmers top prices for that high quality leaf, with a markup of 50-100%, a direct benefit to this small rural community.

This morning’s tea was grown in this community.

“There is an old saying that ‘tea is made in the garden’ (as opposed to at the factory).  In other words, what is produced in the garden in terms of quality, plucking, etc., will determine the nature of the end product.  We take this very seriously, and from the outset we have put the small farmer at the heart of our project.” ~Bachan Gyawali

In keeping with this philosophy, the Jun Chiyabari team expanded their vision last year with the construction of the Singalila Tea factory nearby in the town of Fikkal, at an altitude of 5,662 feet above sea level. They are constantly educating themselves and their farmers in tea cultivation skills, bio-organic farming including diversity of crops and preservation of forest areas to benefit the environment.

The beautiful amber liquor glows like a jewel in my glass teapot inviting me to pour my first cup.

The cup is quite smooth with sweet, lightly floral notes. I also detect some chestnut notes reminiscent of an Oolong tea. Mmmm…

I look forward to more delicious tea from this visionary team!

Today I’m heading down to E. Bridgewater, MA where my dear friend, Judy, is teaching her Buttons & Bellishments class. I’m looking forward to a fun ART Day!

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

~Helen Keller