Excavations

I’ve always been drawn to digging. When I was a kid, I made several attempts to dig to China, much to my mother’s chagrin. I didn’t get too far though, probably about a foot down into the earth. Obviously, I didn’t make it to China but I did find all sorts of neat things buried in our backyard – earthworms, old rusted bottlecaps, sticks and stones and roots. I think that’s when my love of gardening was born. I loved the feel of plunging my hands into the dirt and smelling its rich, earthy scent. Finding what was below the surface of things resonated with me then as it does with me now.

Many years later, my love of digging led me to pick up my carving tool and start experimenting with digging into multi-colored layers of polymer clay. I gouged through the layers both before and after baking the clay to reveal what’s hidden below the surface. The gouge marks leave jagged edges which I don’t smooth by sanding. I leave the clay rough which speaks to me of the organic process of a spiritual journey and digging into/peeling away the layers of the psyche to discover your inner core. The process can be sharp-edged and painful at times but what is ultimately revealed has a beauty all its own, rich and colorful and unique.

To create my bracelet, I chose a color palette that made me happy and then mixed my colors in polymer clay. I always like to mix my own colors as I feel it lends a uniqueness to my piece. Plus I just loooove mixing colors! I made a sheet out of each one of my mixed colors and then cut some circles out of each sheet. I randomly stacked the circles and then loaded the “log of circles” into my clay extruder. I extruded the clay using a round die and then cut the resulting snake into equal pieces which I lined up horizontally on a sheet of polymer clay. I apologize that I don’t know who originally invented this extrusion technique. It has become quite popular in creating canes. When you cut the snake into equal size pieces and then bunch the snakes up, the cut ends reveal bulls eyes in color variations of your chosen color palette. What I was interested in here, however, was not the cut ends but gouging into the length of the snake.

An unexpected and delightful surprise occurred when I cut the tall thin rectangles for my bracelet components. I discovered that there were small gaps where the snakes abutted on the clay backing, perfect for stringing a cord through. To finish the bracelet, I did a little beadwork over the silver crimps and attached a multi-strand tube clasp. The silver clasp was so bright that I immersed it in liver of sulfur to darken it. It’s still not dark enough for my taste so I’ll repeat that again very soon.

I created other components from my excavation work that day. I’m working on a necklace right now and will happily share my results once it’s finished. I’m so happy to be sharing my artwork with you once again! As always, thanks for stopping by.

A Lizard Tail Goddess

First of all, I’d like to extend a big thank you to Julie Picarello for all of her inspiration in creating this necklace. And her inspiration continues with the arrival of her eagerly anticipated book in my mailbox this week. More about that later…

A little over a year ago, I was excited and honored to attend a weekend workshop with Julie, one of my polymer clay/color heroes. The first word that comes to my mind whenever I look at her work is…..yummy. Her use of color, design and texture all flow together in such an amazingly vibrant way. As part of her workshop, we made these nifty little polyclay pieces that Julie calls “lizard tails”. As much as I love Julie’s work, I didn’t want to duplicate her jewelry pieces but put my own artistic voice into my piece. So, being true to my style, my “lizard tail” became the body of a bead embroidered Goddess.

Many moons ago before I started creating jewelry and beadwork, I loved to embroider. I remember my Hungarian grandmother teaching me how to carefully lay stitches down on a tablecloth when I was very young even before I started going to school.  I continued embroidering on into my teen years, creating colorful designs on t-shirts, denim shirts and pairs of denim jeans so ripped up that I transformed them into purses. Ah, happy memories! I loved taking an everyday object and embellish it with colorful stitches. Years later when I discovered that I could sew with my beloved beads, well, oh my, I was in heaven.

This beautifully serene, bone face cabochon was purchased years ago at a bead show in Providence and has sat patiently in my studio stash waiting to be included in its own unique piece of jewelry. I beaded the face and body separately on Lacy’s Stiff Stuff and then sewed them together before adding a final beaded edge to the whole pendant. I thought about adding some fringe or a bead drop but decided finally to just keep this piece as simple as possible with no embellishment.

The choker is beaded in my favorite beading weave, herringbone stitch, with tiny size 15 beads. In seed beads as with wire gauge, the larger the number, the smaller the bead (or wire). I then beaded small gold caps to finish the choker ends and added a gold-filled filigree box clasp. Despite its long pendant, this necklace is so lightweight and such a pleasure to wear. It is backed with soft Ultrasuede.

I thought it wonderfully synchronistic that I finished this piece the same week that I received my copy of Julie’s new book, “Patterns in Polymer: Imprint and Accent Bead Techniques“. If you’ve never had the opportunity to take a workshop with Julie, this is the next best thing and is filled with eye candy inspiration and instruction on creating your own unique mokume gane pieces.

Next up on my beading table is another component made in Julie’s workshop, my “lazy river” pendant. Stay tuned, dear friends…

Live, Laugh, Love

I recently finished 2 bracelets that were commissioned as a gift for a couple to celebrate their recent marriage.

I found it a great challenge to create something for someone whom I’ve never met and don’t know at all. That said, I was given some great info and background on the couple, including one of their favorite phrases.

I stamped the phrase onto 2 copper charms I cut out, to create a link between the 2 bracelets. As you can see, I also used similar beads to further link the two.

Can you tell which one is for her and which one is for him?

My “Klimt” bracelets

I’ve gone off in a fun new direction with my jewelry lately and it’s all my dear friend Judy’s fault! I say this with great affection and admiration for an artist I consider to be THE mixed media queen extraordinaire. She has inspired me more than words can say.

A couple of months ago, Judy introduced me to painting on polymer clay and a whole new world opened up to me. That day, we made some ATCs but I got a notion to go in a different direction and make a pendant. And then I went home and started making trays of little components for earrings and bracelets and…..one thing led to another….and my “Klimt” bracelets were born. The rubber stamp I used reminds me of the shapes from the paintings of Gustav Klimt, especially his well known painting called “The Kiss”.

I am having the grandest time with my paintbrush and new hoard of Golden fluid acrylic paints! So many gorgeous colors. Yum.

I used ecru colored polymer clay as my base and cut out some square components from my stamped sheet. Then many joyful painting sessions ensued!

Knowing that bracelets have the tendency to twirl around as you’re wearing them, I wanted a clasp component that would incorporate seamlessly into the design.

I was a little nervous because I’ve never made a toggle clasp before and wasn’t quite sure how what was in my head would manifest into a physical clasp.

I’m happy to report that it works!

Stay tuned for my earring creations…

“The world is but a canvas to our imaginations.”

~Henry David Thoreau

Studio Wednesday

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This week I finished the crochet chain necklace and attached my polyclay swirl pendant to it. I fashioned a hook and eye clasp from 18 gauge sterling wire. A little liver of sulfur dip made it a cool bronzy color to match the bronze crocheted wire.

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I crocheted 6 chain segments in all, 3 for each side, and left long tails for wrapping. I threaded the tails through the pendant and then wrapped around the chain on the other side to secure them in place.

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I am so enjoying bringing my love of crochet into my jewelry creations. I recently purchased a skein of Berroco Seduce yarn, a simply luscious blend of silk, linen, rayon and nylon. I’ve got some ideas floating around in my head of crocheted bracelets using this yarn and some polyclay beads.

Who knows what women can be when they are finally free

to become themselves?

~Betty Friedan

Studio Wednesday

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In the time I have between my physical therapy treatment and my favorite tv show “LOST”, I’d like to share with you what I’ve been working on this week.

With the limited range of motion in my frozen right shoulder, I haven’t been able to do a creative activity that I absolutely love: mixing colors in polymer clay. Cranking the pasta machine is torture on my shoulder. I solved that problem by treating myself to a motor and foot pedal for my P.M. What a difference! This has opened up a whole new world for me.

I love my new motor.

My first color mixing project was to mix up some muted neutral colors for a cane I wanted to try out from the new Donna Kato book I picked up from the library. It’s called “The Art of Polymer Clay Millefiore Techniques: Projects and Inspiration for Creative Canework”.

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There’s a lot of cool cane ideas in this great book. Now that I’ve returned it to the library, I’m even considering adding it to my library permanently. The cane slices above were created with a rolled Skinner Blend plug, wrapped and squished and rearranged. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not really into creating canes because I like a more organic look to my work instead of geometric precision. That being said, there are some fun organic cane patterns to play with.

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I had some fun with the cane ends I sliced off and rolled around. Here’s a scrap cane that ended up looking like crescent moons from another world.

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Ever since I received a small piece of plexiglas in a goody bag from the first Klay Karma retreat 4 years ago, I love making swirly lentil beads with cane scraps. The larger one with the cane slice bail will be used as a pendant in a necklace. The smaller one could be used for a freeform bracelet. That would be fun to incorporate some polymer clay beads in my freeform work.

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I thought that I’d do something different for the swirly pendant necklace. Using a very thin gauge black wire and some bronze colored size 11 seed beads, I made several lengths of chain stitch. The wire was a bit tricky to work with at first because there is no “give” as there is with fiber. It takes time to figure out how much wire to wrap around your crochet hook to allow you to be able to pull the wire through the loop. I found that working looser rather than tighter is best.

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I made some more chain stitch lengths using bronze wire and black seed beads.

This weekend I’ll work on putting my necklace together.

“Once there were two color kittens with green eyes, Brush and Hush. They liked to mix and make colors by splashing one color into another. They had buckets and buckets and buckets and buckets of color to splash around with., Out of these colors they would make all the colors in the world.”

~from “The Color Kittens” by Margaret Wise Brown

Studio Wednesday on Thursday

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Last weekend I nourished my creative spirit as much as possible as I adjusted to my new schedule. I dedicated myself to creating and finishing a necklace for my “Grow” polymer clay pendant. With the help of my brand new mini bead spinner, I threaded a bead soup of pale blue, green, yellow, ivory and crystal seed beads onto my hand dyed silk cord. It was a little tricky at first to slide into the rhythm of needle and spinning bowl but I finally got the hang of it and then the beads literally jumped onto my needle like eager participants in play. As I eased myself into the flow of the spinning beads, I was reminded of my early school days when I loved jumping Double Dutch. You really couldn’t think about it, you just had to close your eyes and navigate by your inner compass and spacial instinct. In other words, jump in!  Once my cord was saturated with tiny beads, I started crocheting a simple chain stitch, catching one bead in each chain. I made 3 strands like this and tied the ends together.

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My next step was to create small bead caps/cones by weaving the beads in a herringbone stitch. I covered the knotted  silk cord ends with my beaded caps.

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I found a small textured silver toggle clasp in my stash and attached it to the silver loops coming out of the bead caps. I’m still deciding whether I like this clasp for this necklace. It is very easy to put on and take off the necklace so that’s a big plus. And it’s small size goes well with the delicate feel of  the necklace. I’ll have to wear it a couple of times to see how it works.

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Using 20 gauge sterling silver wire, I created a curled spiral bail for my pendant and threaded the strands through the curls.

Curls of soft misty colors. Silvery rebirth spirals. Crystal drops of rain.

Spring is here.