Tag Archives: beads

Leap day

I felt like I was finally bouncing back from a wicked cold today with more energy than I’ve had in a week. It was good to have the extra day to get back on my feet. I finished firing the last bit of my bronze and copper pieces, testing the limits on my third batch, with more pieces closer together in the stainless steel bowl. I increased both the binder burn off time and the sintering time and crossed my fingers. It all worked.

It took 3 different kiln loads, and a total of 12 hours (with some extra hours in between for required cool down times) to fire this many pieces of copper/bronze clay in my little kiln.

It took only 1 kiln load and 2 hours of firing for this many pieces of silver clay:

If I had to pick just one metal clay to work with it would be silver every time. But, the good news is I don’t have to choose; I just have to learn some time management. And when the bronze and copper pieces are fired and cleaned up, I wonder why I don’t work with the base metal clays more often.

What excites me about the bronze and copper clay pieces is that I have a whole selection of  patinas to use that I purchased from Shannon at  Miss Ficklemedia. I already know from some patinas I tried last summer that the combo pieces, made with both base metals, take on the patina as if they were just one type of metal.  The little two tone earring components will be used as they are. But the beads! I can’t wait to try Shannon’s russet red on some of the copper and bronze lentil beads. Picture the red color from the leaves below in the background of the raised letters and spirals in the 2 middle beads below:

(If you can’t picture it, just check back in a few days.)

The fun part about working with patina solutions is that you don’t know right away how the color  will develop. The russet red was the first heat applied patina I tried, and I really didn’t like it. (You can tell by how few red pieces there are in the batch below.) But after 2 days I really loved it.

So did one of my customers.

Before I even think of getting out the patina solutions, I have a necklace to finish with some of the silver rock beads I polished today:

Jan, if you’re reading this, thank you for your patience!

It was a tremendously successful leap day back to health. I got a whole lot done in the studio, I took a long walk, I read for an hour, I started on a piece of writing, and I’m actually going to bed before 10:30. I have been, for me, incredibly focused all day, which I attribute to enjoying the kind of alone time I get when Bruce goes to the Fishermen’s Forum in Rockland. In a few days, I’ll be relaxed, energized, caught up with creative work, and I’ll be missing my sweetie. And then he’ll come home. It’s all good!


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A good day for beads

I never did get on the mailboat this morning. I played it safe and stayed home when I started feeling like I was coming down with some kind of bug. I slept and read for the morning and found some energy to work in the afternoon, turning a dumb day into a productive one.

It was easy to feel inspired with ideas when this package of beads from Leese Mahoney arrived in the mail.

I imagine combining some of the “earthy” rough textured beads with some of my own beach rock beads. I finished up a batch of drilling I had started last week, and waxed and buffed the beach rocks.

Holly Kellogg asked what the polymer clay swirl beads looked like after they were fired, so here are two photos for you, my buddy Holly!

Buffing the beach rocks with a muslin wheel got me wondering about buffing some of the polymer beads. I already had a clean (no polishing compound) buff for the rocks, why not try it on the translucent clay to see how it changed the appearance? The photos below are late afternoon shot, done in a hurry, but they show the difference between the un-buffed beads (top row) and the buffed beads (bottom row).


The copper beads I covered with translucent clay were among the most disappointing when I first fired them. After buffing them with a muslin wheel, I really like how they look. Especially the beads with a little white beneath the translucent salmon. When an experiment changes from something I would not bother to repeat, to something I can’t wait to explore further, that’s a good day.


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As part of my translucent clay experiments, I embedded bits of hammered wire and opaque clay between rolled layers of translucent clay. The layers were rolled to #3 on my pasta machine.

Discovery: Unless using the wire in a mechanical part of the design, it seems a waste of metal to embed it.  Especially when using silver.

I was much happier with the look of pearlized white clay beneath a translucent layer, as in the round beads at the top of the photo below. To me the dots and lines show  up well, and the pearlized white clay resembles silver, or what I hoped the silver would look beneath the translucent clay.

The beads in the lower part of the photo are copper beads covered with a layer of translucent clay  tinted with “Salmon” colored alcohol ink. I was surprised at how the salmon color seemed to disappear when layered over the copper. In the mid-left of the photo are more copper beads covered with a layer of blue tinted translucent clay. It looks more purple than I thought it would.

Earring components from a random mix of green and blue alcohol inks. I’m not sure what this color would be called, but I used it as a base for the earring pieces. I made a design with black and white and added a very thin layer of the grayish green translucent clay on top. (I’m pretty sure this was Premo clay because I could bend these pieces almost in half without then breaking or cracking. The Pardo pieces were firmer after firing.)

As an experiment, I liked the way they came out. By chance, I think the smokey greenish color will mix well with silver findings. But, I really am at a loss when thinking about mixing color. I have no art background, so a color wheel memory is not readily available to me. (I think a little color wheel on the wall of my studio would be a good aid to my polymer clay experiments.)

Below, I placed a white unglazed ceramic disc between two layers of Pardo translucent clay. With the milky aspect of the clay before firing, I had no confidence about this turning into an interesting bead. So, I only made one. (duh, not thinking)

The disc bead, after firing, was a pleasant surprise. I plan to make more of these in a variety of translucent colors.

Imbedding? Embedding? As a “wordsmith wannabe” I had to determine which word is the correct one to use. Like Pardo and Premo translucent clay, either one can be used.  Both are correct. The choice is up to the user!



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A blue afternoon

I like to wear scarves. With colder weather, I am often digging into my scarf wardrobe and finding some old friends I haven’t seen since last winter.  I have several large squares that I like to just fold in half on the diagonal and drape around my neck without getting too fussy about tying them. I started thinking before Christmas, that it might be fun to add beads to the corners of these scarves to give them just that little bit of weight to hang easily and effectively without being tied.

After a stupid morning, where I had trouble getting out of my own way, I thought, “Well, I’ll just go find that blue scarf, find some beads that work with the color and sew them on before lunch. I can then take some photos and have a little blog post written before dinner.” It sounded so easy.

I knew I wanted weight at the corners, but that’s about all I knew. I’ve strung thousands of beads on necklaces, but have never sewn one on to anything. My first attempt was kind of gaumy. I tried the beads in opposite corners, then ripped them out when I didn’t like how they looked or how they hung.

It was actually starting to get to me, how long the whole “little” project was taking, as I tried various combinations and then ripped them out. I finally ended up, (after dinner!) adding 4 beaded wire dangles that I sewed in place with a few extra fresh water pearls sewn on either side.

I’m not sure I like the final look, but it hangs the way I had imagined. This is a project I didn’t like, and would have abandoned if it weren’t for my challenge to myself to blog every day. It was my planned post for the day. I’ll wear the scarf  at least once to see how I like it and to see if it’s a project to repeat with any of my other scarves.

Meanwhile, I love this little youtube video about tying scarves. It makes me realize I need to upgrade my blog page to be able to include videos rather than just posting a link. Enjoy!


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New beads from SueBeads

I love getting new beads from Sue Kennedy’s Etsy shop. Her lampworked beads with dots of silver are one of my favorites. (Thanks Sue for the surprise extra pair of beads you added to my order!) I’m a pretty regular reader of her blog, and when she mentions new work I go straight to her shop to check it out.

I especially like how her etched (frosted) clear glass beads combine with the German lampworked beads I recently purchased from Beadin’ Path in Freeport, Maine.

A reminder:  Today is “Small Business Saturday.”  This holiday season let’s all do our part to shop small businesses as often as possible. Consider a craft fair, your local hardware store, the art gallery in town, the florist, the independent book store, or a small business commerce site on the Internet.

Where do you recommend shopping in your town?


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                                                  I’ve just spent four (4!) days in a row in the studio. This fall has been so full of other things that it seems like forever since I’ve been able to work for four days straight.  It was total bliss. I’m getting ready for my third annual visit to Val’s in a few weeks, along with finishing up some other commitments.

The recent bead show in Ellsworth was a blast and I learned a lot from the experience. I sold very little jewelry that weekend, but I did watch many of my little packages of beads head off to fresh new creative homes. It was a great way to clean my studio of the beads I no longer use, while offering bead buyers some great bargains. I would definitely do it again.

Is it just me, or is this fall whizzing by  much faster than usual?


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Thousands of beads and a show in 4 days


If you are going to be in Ellsworth, Maine this weekend, stop by at the Ramada Inn (old Holiday Inn) and check out the talented company I’ll be keeping at the Beads Baubles and Fleece Downeast show!

This is going to be a great opportunity to see some friends I haven’t seen in a while, and to see what they’ve been creating lately. It is also a chance to de-stash my own studio a bit as I offer some beads I haven’t used in a while.

Once upon a time, before PMC was invented, I made a lot of my own polymer clay beads. I created colorful canes to slice fire and drill so I would have plenty of 8 to 10mm  beads to use in multi-strand, multi-colored necklaces.


I like all kinds of beads, but I love making my own beads to use in combination with others. For many years these Fimo beads fit the bill. I could make canes and slice them into beads all day long. I made many many necklaces with them. Then, in 1998, Fred Woell introduced me to a product from Mitsubishi Materials known as Precious Metal Clay. I learned to make beads from silver that started out as a moldable metal clay. Once the “clay” was fired, and the binder burned away, I had beads of pure silver. Eventually I said goodbye to the polymer clay, and stored my many handmade beads high on a shelf in my studio.

Once in a while I would get a request for a beaded necklace like the one above, but the beads mostly stayed out of sight and out of mind…until I applied to the Beads Baubles and Fleece show. I thought it would be a good opportunity to see what someone else might do with my beads if they were for sale. I dug out the boxes of Fimo beads and I was shocked at the number I had put away. There must be thousands. (unfortunately, some of them were never drilled so I still have some work to do before selling them.)

These boxes represent hours and hours of work. I have no idea how to price them, but I will come up with a plan before Friday. Bruce suggested selling them by weight, using a scoop. It sounds like a pretty good idea.

I will also have some jewelry for sale at my booth, though I’m running out of time to finish more necklaces. I’ve never sold beads or components before, but it’s an idea I’ve had in the back of my mind for a few months since I like to buy beads and components from other artists on Etsy.  I enjoy making beads so much, I wonder what it would feel like to stop at that point and sell them, rather than work them into necklaces or earrings.

As I get ready to sell beads I’ve made, and an assortment of other beads I bought but haven’t used in a while I’m thinking:

What if I have the prices too high and I can’t sell them? What if I have the prices too low and I piss off other sellers at the show? What if I sell beads I really like and then wish I had kept them? What if I sell everything on the first day? What if I sell nothing in two days? What if my display looks cheesy, tacky, unprofessional?

What do you know? My insecurities about selling beads at a show are the same insecurities I have about selling jewelry at a show. Only this time I’ll have both beads and jewelry for sale. It’s time for me to remember that I’m not the only one who feels this way before a show. Maybe I could just lighten up and decide to have a good time no matter what. But first…I have a few holes to drill….




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It worked!

I had a great Memorial Day weekend, spending time with friends, baking, and even dancing to a steel band in the fog on the Town Dock. When I did get into the studio, it was super clean and organized, so I got right to work on repairs that had been hanging around for months. These are items that I did not make, but that people asked me to restring or repair, “whenever I get to it.” I’m delighted to say I cleared my bench of 5 necklaces and 3 pairs of earrings, all in the name of studio clean up.

In taking care of this business, I restrung a necklace I had made for my mother. It was a mixture of blue glass beads interspersed with a number of small sterling silver beads that had become quite tarnished. I used to toss those silver beads in a jar for “someday,” and pull out fresh shiny new beads for repairs. With the price of silver, (today $37.70/oz) I have not purchased new silver beads in a while, so it was time to face the dreaded clean up of tiny silver beads.  Have you ever tried removing tarnish from a 4mm bead with a polishing cloth? Hand cramp city. I remembered hearing about removing tarnish from silver by placing it in a pan with aluminum foil and something else. I had saved a little tutorial about this from a Beading Daily update I received by e-mail earlier this month. I followed the directions given by Beading Daily editor Jen VanBenschoten and it worked pretty well. Later, after the polished beads were back in place on my mother’s newly restrung necklace, I looked on the internet for more information about why this process works. I found the explanation I was looking for on SciFun.org. I love having this kind of information at my fingertips  just as much as I love not having to hand polish all of these tiny beads.

Before: (If these look clean to you, I suggested clicking on the photo to enlarge it!)


I had stopped wearing this little necklace because I dreaded hand polishing the thin-linked chain. The shiny chain in the middle is for comparison:

Three little bits that were sitting on the windowsill in my kitchen, just waiting for this day:

Those bubbles mean business! Though, this worked better the second time, when the beads weren’t touching each other.


Ta Da!

And Ta Da!

The tarnish removing technique didn’t hurt the freshwater pearls at all. I did wonder why the little saucer beads between the pearls did not get clean (click to enlarge). Then I realized that the pearls kept them from coming in contact with the foil, so the chemical reaction did not work so well there. Still, it was a huge time saver. This trick is good to know.


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I can’t drive through Freeport…

…without stopping to pick up something at the Beadin’ Path. On my trip back to Maine on Monday I had just enough time for a 30 minute stop at my favorite bead store. I have more patinas to try from Miss Ficklemedia, so I picked up a few more copper and brass pieces to work with.

I also scored some more raku beads made by Keith O’Connor. I can’t wait to make more silver beads of my own to go with these. I chose the darker colors to mix with some beach rocks and silver.

I thought these vintage glass “nail head” beads were interesting. They remind me of mica. At 10mm they will be a handy size to mix with a variety of beads I have on hand.

These German glass lamp work beads are 40mm long and 10mm wide between the tapers. I’m not sure how I will use them, but I thought they were pretty cool.

I’m always on the lookout for interesting freshwater pearls. Keshi pearls, like these, are pearls that grow without a nucleus.

The Labradorite  beads below were my favorite find on this trip. They were pretty expensive and there were just two strands left. I was only going to buy one strand, but the schiller effect (light refraction) in these beads was especially nice, and I really liked the shape. The graduated sizes will give me more options too.  I had several ideas in mind for these, so at the last minute I added the second strand to my purchase.

Now all I want to do is get to work!  Though I have two days off  the island on my schedule this week, so that means less studio time until the weekend. C’est la vie, eh?


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Mysterious pod bead saga

In trying to describe how I made the pod  bead , I began to wonder what was the thing I picked up on a walk last fall, and of which I made a silicone mold? How do you Google something that you can see, but you can’t name?  I tried to remember where I picked it up. It was from a dried plant stem, so I Googled “bumps in plant stem,” which only netted me information about tomato plants.  I know I found the bumpy thing in a place where heliotrope grows wild in July. My next search term was, “large round bumps in stem of heliotrope.” Plenty of heliotrope information, but nothing about bumps. Hmmm…how about, “insect caused stem bumps?” Bingo!

The bumps are called galls. More specifically a goldenrod stem gall.

I’ve seen them many times, but never knew their name, and never paid much attention to them. Once I had the name, I Googled images for the stem gall and looked at over 13 pages. None of the images had a triple gall like the one I used to make this bead, so I think I picked up quite the unusual gall!

I have tried to pair the bead with other beads I have on hand. I switched out the reddish glass beads I bought from SueBeads. (Although just now, looking at Sue’s Etsy shop, she is selling Pod Beads that may be the perfect match with my pod bead.)

I strung it with some patinated copper beads from Miss Ficklemedia. I love the color of these beads with the silver, but I am unsure about others of my own beads I used in the necklace.  Hmm, Sue’s pod beads will look lovely in between mine and Shannon’s….

Below: The triple goldenrod stem gall, the silicone mold, and the fine silver pod bead.

For the many times I’ve considered how I want to use this 2″ bead, I have also wished I had a mold of  a single “pod” so I could make smaller beads with this texture.  Now I know to look where the goldenrod grows (next to the heliotrope) and I also know the name of what I’m looking for.  I think I like saying “stem gall” and I know I like like saying “pod bead.”  And the cool dark pod beads with a metallic finish from Suebeads? Just bought ’em.





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