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…

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“Meditation on Spring” Beaded Cuff

Spring colors are blooming on my very first bracelet cuff creation!

Forsythia yellow, willow green, azalea pink, rhododendron rose, cream and baby pink magnolia. Colors so fresh and light, rebirthing the world in their embrace. Ah, I just love this time of year!

Almost exactly 2 years ago, I wrote this post about stitching a 2-drop peyote band from a bead soup mix that was left over from this freeform bracelet. That band has sat, well, for 2 years now, on a bead mat in my studio, patiently waiting for me to transform it into a piece of jewelry.

I created the face cabochon from polymer clay using the same glazing technique I used for these faces, rubbing on mica powder and mixing alcohol ink with liquid polymer clay.

After I beaded around the face cabochon, I attached her to my peyote band. As I held it in my hand, I felt that the weight of the cabochon was just too heavy for the lightness of the band so I pondered and pondered on what I could do next. Hmmmm…

Aha! What if I sewed the peyote stitched band to a piece of ultrasuede and then glued that to a brass cuff? That would give it the weight and counterbalance it needed! So, I did just that and then glued another piece of ultrasuede to the back of the cuff. I stitched a beaded edge, thus joining the 2 pieces of ultrasuede together at their edges, giving the cuff a finished look.

I found a great resource on the web for ultrasuede. Field’s Fabrics is located in Michigan, has over 160 colors of ultrasuede in stock and charges only a flat rate $6.00 for shipping. You can buy scrap variety packs or as little as 1/8 yard per color. I used a pale spring green called limade for this project.

Even though it took me several years to figure out how to bring all of the components together in harmony, I’m so happy with my new creation. Now that’s it’s complete, I’m thinking of another bead embroidered bracelet, this one softer without the brass cuff, possibly beaded on a piece of batik fabric in yummy colors.

Ah, the possibilities…

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” 

~Albert Einstein

Unless otherwise noted, all text and photos are the property of Karen Park Art and Tea, copyright 2007-2011. Please do not “lift” any of my photographs or blog posts for use on your blog or website. Thank you so much for your respect and kind attention.

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

Studio Wednesday

fallbeadedearrings1108

We are now entering the late fall and I think that the darker bronzy colors of trees and leaf are making their way into my jewelry. I beaded these earrings today. The photo doesn’t do justice to the gorgeous antiqued gold black twisted bugle beads. I made a bugle bead ladder and then added the light orange and bronze beads along one side of the ladder with a 2-bead brick stitch. After beading that side, I added a tapered fringe on the other side, using the same beads and the russet glass leaves. I like the way the outline of the leaf veins matches the light orange beads.

peppercornpathfall08A carpet of dark russet leaves lined the path on my walk the other day. I’m so glad to live in a place where we experience all 4 seasons. I’m ready for the weather to grow cooler at this time of year. In the evenings, I’ve been cozying up next to a roaring fire in our new fireplace insert. Wow, that insert really works great. When it reaches a certain temperature, a fan turns on and blows the heat (that normally would be lost up the chimney) out into the room. With the fireplace downstairs in my studio, we have set up a small fan in the stairwell to bring the heat up into the rest of the house. So, with my fire going and the house nice and warm, I am very content at this time of the year. I feel so blessed.

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
–   John Muir

The Birth of a Freeform Peyote Bracelet – Part 4

My bracelet is progressing, slowly but surely. Originally, I was going to add one coin shaped pearl but I loved their shape and color so much that I decided to add 3 of them. You can see how it doesn’t grow in an even way. Just like life where we will focus our attention to certain parts, my bracelet is growing more on one side than the other. As I go with the flow of the beads, I will feel a pull to work on one particular part and help that grow. Then I will notice the gaps in the other parts of the bracelet and move over to those places to seek balance.

As the bracelet grows, I am still working in peyote stitch here and there but find myself adding whole loops of beads to create bridges to other parts of the bracelet. As in life, flexibility is key as you listen to your inner voice to see what the next step should be.

I’ve been read a fascinating book called “The Kaizen Way: One Small Step can Change your Life” by Dr. Robert Maurer. Kaizen is a Japanese technique using small, steady steps to achieve lasting success with a goal. You can read more about it and Dr. Maurer here.

There is a part of our brain, located in the midbrain and called the amygdala, that is crucial to our survival because it controls the fight-or-flight response. This response is a natural alarm that alerts certain parts of our body for action in the face of immediate danger. When the alert happens, other parts of our body are slowed or shut down to allow all of our energy and resources to get us out of the danger. One nonessential (at the time) function that shuts down is our rational and creative thought processes. Even though most of us aren’t in situations where a dangerous animal is charging at us, this response is appropriate and vital in our lives today in emergency situations such as someone breaking into our house or reacting to a driver who has run a red light and threatens to hit our car. Where it can create a problem, however, is when we are faced with a new situation that is not part of our usual, safe day-to-day routine, such as the challenge of finding a new job or quitting a habit such as smoking or overeating. This situation can trigger fear and the fight-or-flight response can be triggered from our fear which will then shut down the thinking part of our brain. Big goals can trigger fear also. So, taking very small steps towards a big goal or new situation can bypass those fears. With each small step, new neural pathways are laid down in our brain and we build new habits, working towards our goals and a new situation in a comfortable way for us.

So, what does this Japanese technique have to do with creating a freeform bracelet, you ask? As I’ve read different comments from my readers about their experience with freeform peyote, I’ve heard that this kind of project might feel overwhelming, especially when it is such a free flowing creation. There really isn’t an exacting set of instructions regarding what to do. So, I suggest to fool that fear response and accomplish this creative task with teeny, tiny steps. Set aside 5 minutes a day to add a couple of beads at a time. Put a little sign next to your growing creation that says something like, “whatever I create is beautiful”. There is no right way or wrong way. Whatever you create is a beautiful expression of you, one tiny bead at a time.

More Progress on my March Beaded Journal Page

Here’s a peek at the progress I’ve made on my March journal page. I enjoy creating the texture of the tree bark. As I bead each twist and turn, I contemplate all of the twists and turns I’ve taken in my life up to where I am right now. I think I will make some fringy roots that will hang free. As I’ve only been in my new home for 3 weeks, I’m not feeling especially rooted right now.