Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Birds and Roses

Yesterday it was the sea; today, it's more country gardens and treetops. 

I am allergic to quite of lot of what you may find in both country gardens and indeed, some trees(!) - but still, who can resist their quiet loveliness on a warm summer's day? Roses to the front and birds overhead....a rug on the lawn and a picnic spread in front, and perhaps even a glass of something sparkling to one side. I am ready for one of those Summer days, aren't you? 

Monday, 21 July 2014

A new ocean piece

I have written here and here about how inspired I am by the sea, the ocean-side and water in general...the sea calls to me on an almost-daily basis. So it should come as no surprise that I couldn't resist this gorgeous bead set from Heather Millican of Swoondimples:

They read in full:

"A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor."

Very true. 

Here's what they became....inspired by my recent Whale Watching bracelet; you may be able to tell...

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Michaels Beading Challenge Blog Hop Reveal - 1 day late!

So, I'm a day late. If you knew the weekend I'd just have, I am sure you'd forgive me, but I will spare you the details for now - and rather, continue with the jewellery. That's what you're here for - not tales of almost-dying pets, smashed in faces and possibly stolen cars.....right?

When I saw that Lorelei and Heather Humblebeads were organising a blog challenge, I knew I wanted to join in if I could. They had selected some beads from Michaels, which is a craft chain based in North America. I.E., none in the UK and Europe! Thankfully, I have some rather super friends in America, and when I asked my particularly super friend Erin if she would be able to pick up the beads for me when she was getting some for herself, she very, very kindly obliged. 

The challenge beads

I am so behind with everything because of the weekend (see above...), but I felt that having asked Erin to go to the trouble of buying these for me, I really had to give myself the extra push to take part. So last night, I sat down at 9pm and began. 

 I originally started on a chunky multi-strand bracelet.....but that didn't quite work. I have plans to rework it because I like the idea of it (it was the particular large toggle clasp I'd selected that threw the spanner in the works), but I decided to go for something a little simpler for now. 

I threw in a Bo Hulley leaf clasp - usually I make my own hook clasps to go with these, but I didn't have any to hand and so simply combined it with a Vintaj hook. 

Somehow I felt that this palette needed some orange in it for my designs, as you can see continued on in this second bracelet...

I love how the ceramic rounds (Erin picked me out a blue shade rather than the green ones in the picture above, and I think they are my favourite beads from the selection!) look with the pressed glass orange flower caps. 

This bracelet then needed some earrings to match:

On second thoughts, I think the flower tiles actually tie for favourite with the ceramic rounds. I LOVE these beads, although I found them quite tricky to think of ways to use them. I am always challenged by rectangles and squares...

Along with my Michaels beads, the lovely Erin (did I mention what a fantastic lady she is?) sent me one of her own handmade 'Simple Truths' pendants; a colourful flag pendant in the perfect palette. On the reverse it says:

'not all who wander are lost'. 

I'm not sure if Erin chose these words especially for me, but they are particularly apt right now, as a week today (can it really be only a WEEK away?) we move over to Edinburgh, our second big move in 12 months. 

My first thought for this was that I wanted to create some kind of colourful bunting necklace with it, but alas, I had no other triangle beads in my stash. Impossible though that seems, given the size of it...! 

I had, however, picked up some cool wooden frames in Dublin this past weekend (did I mention how disastrous it was..?) Well, one of the less disastrous points was stumbling across a bead shop on the Liffey. It looked like your every day bead shop at first (I've been in a few...) but they had some really interesting bits and bobs that I haven't seen before on closer inspection. Including some cool wooden frame sets, as I said. I thought perhaps they could hang down like triangles, but of course they didn't want to play ball.....but I am pretty pleased how they wanted to hang instead! 

I didn't want Erin's Simple Truth to look too wee compared with the frames, so I decided that a piece of decorative chain hanging beneath would do the trick - somehow, the leaves tied in with my original bunting idea.

I realised that this design, although in my mind linked to the challenge palette, didn't contain any of the Michaels beads! So I added a couple on. Did you spot them?!

Last, and quite possibly least(!), I realised I had used some of all the beads apart from the blue/gold glass window beads. Another sweet and simple pair of earrings with my favourite flower tiles. 

So what do you think? Did I pull it out the bag? I have a list of 'to-dos' as long as my arms and my legs put together for today, but I wanted to share these with you so that I wasn't TOO late for the blog hop. Hoping to get these pieces into my etsy shop today, but do comment is you see any that float your boat. 

If you want to see what other folk created with the same beads, hop over to Heather's blog to see the list. Thanks to Heather, Lorelei and especially Erin for organising and enabling me to take part!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

.....and now for the earrings...!

Did you see yesterday's post on these vintage nailhead beads? Scroll down to check out how I cleaned up these pretty red flowers, ready for action. I've combined them with vintage brass charms, matte kingfisher green glass seed beads and handmade copper earwires. The nailhead beads present a bit of a challenge because a) they have two holes and b) they are very light and therefore delicate. I imagine that I will therefore be using most of my stash of these in earrings, but I forsee a very delicate and dainty bracelet in their future also. 

These will be heading to my etsy shop on Monday, but do comment if you would like them! £16 and for my lovely blog readers, I am offering free worldwide shipping. 

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Vintage beads - cleaning up!

One of the really fantastic/dangerous things about working with beads is that there are just so many of them - so many shapes, materials, sizes to choose from. Not only that, but there are beads made yesterday all the way back to pretty much the beginning of human civilisation! There is a ridiculous and sometimes overwhelming amount of choice. 

I usually work with contemporary beads, be they glass, gemstones, pearls or handmade, but recently, I have had a bit of a 'thing' for vintage beads. I have turned into one of those ebay stalkers, trawling through auctions, scrolling through pages and pages of vintage glass on etsy....it does make for rather a pleasant afternoon, if an expensive one too! 

Last week, an order of vintage glass beads arrived with me from America. The beads are from Japan, the Czech republic and Germany, and range from the early 1900s to about the 1960s. Gosh, I am thrilled with them! It was all I could do not to place another order with the supplier the very same day, but with an impending move and all funds going towards that, I held back - for now...Although they were all unused, due to the age of them, some of them were just a little dusty - nothing terrible, they just needed a wee bit of a clean. I thought I'd take you through that process here, and give you a peek into how to care for these precious beads.

Here are some of the beautiful beads that arrived with me. Glass nailhead (traditionally for embroidery) beads, from the Czech republic, still on their original strands. These date back to the 1920s. 

You can see the rather deep detailing the moulds have given these lovely beads, not surprising that they had picked up a little dust over the last almost 100 years. They are a really delicious shade of red - a deep crimson, with just the slightest hint of pink to them.

Although the beads are red glass throughout (rather than coated), I wanted to do a test wash of just a few first of all, to make sure they wouldn't react badly with the mild soapy water that I had made up for them. I would always recommend doing this first - nothing worse than giving them all a dunk and discovering that your precious vintage beads don't like what you're dunking them in! I used a wee scoosh of mild hand soap in a shallow tin for these.

As the main reason my beads were a little grubby (other than being almost 100 years old!) is their deep moulded impressions, I needed something that could get into all the crevices. A soft, clean toothbrush is the perfect tool for helping out with this. I just used the top white section of the brush head here, and it worked a treat.

I scrubbed each bead gently after their initial water dunk, and then put them back into the mild soapy water. As the beads weren't very dirty to start off with, I just used the same water to put them back in after their quick and gentle scrub, but if your beads were more dirty, you might want to have another tin of soapy water to put the beads into afterwards, and another tub of water for rinsing your toothbrush. You could then repeat the process if necessary.

Once they were all nice and clean, I transferred them into another wee bowl filled with clean water, to rinse off any residual soap. 

...and then onto some kitchen towel in the sunshine to dry off.

Here are the beads - clean and dry, and ready to be worked with! Don't they look lovely? Come back tomorrow to see what some of these have turned into...

Rebecca is a Scottish jewellery designer, currently living in Belfast, Northern Ireland. You can read more about her and her work at her blog, songbeads.blogspot.com and see more of her jewellery at songbead.etsy.com. She also has a supplies shop at thecuriousbeadshop.etsy.com.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Facebook Songbead Giveaway!

Are you on Facebook? Are you a Songbead 'liker' over there? If you're not, it might be the time to hop over to my page and join in! I am having a big giveaway there when I reach 3000 likes.....it's a big goal but I'm aiming high! 

If you're not on Facebook (which I totally understand - it's not for everyone), then don't worry - I will be having other giveaways here and via my newsletter. Click on the link to sign up. Don't worry, I won't spam you with loads of emails - and there's a special discount code when you sign up too.....and you'll be the first in the know about secret sales and promotions!

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Art Bead Scene - The Mermaid

The Little Mermaid (At the mere sight of the bright liquid they drew back in terror) signed and dated 'Edmund Dulac 11' (lower right) and with inscription 'At the mere sight of the bright liquid...they drew back in terror' 
This illustration was one of at least 28 prepared by Dulac for the 1911 Edition of Stories from Hans Andersen and, in this case, it was one of those accompanying the tale of "The Mermaid". It is associated with the following text:
'If the polyps should seize you, when you go back through my wood,' said the witch, 'just drop a single drop of this liquid on them, and their arms and fingers will burst into a thousand pieces.' But the little mermaid had no need to do this, for at the mere sight of the bright liquid, which sparkled in her hand like a shining star, they drew back in terror. So she soon got past the wood, the bog, and the eddying whirlpools.

Welcome to a mini blog hop featuring certain editors of Art Bead Scene's take on this month's challenge piece. We're hoping to excite your imagination and encourage you to join in with us! 

First, let's consider the inspiration piece. I absolutely love this illustration, but I found it hugely challenging to create from. I think the reasons for this are 1) this huge colour palette used here and 2) the densely detailed pictorial nature of this piece of art. You can really tell that along with watercolours, Dulac has used pen and ink in this illustration. It's gorgeous - but somehow, I didn't quite know where to begin with it. 

Of course, I could have 'just' focused on the colour scheme. But there are just SO many colours here, even that left me feeling a little panicked! I was also keen to get a slightly watery feel to whatever I created. 

I had a whole other necklace finished and ready for photographing, and I could have shared it here, as it looked lovely laid out....but very annoyingly, it just wouldn't hang right once it was 'on'. The clasp kept flipping over and some of the beads kept swivelling around too....We've all been there, I know, but this doesn't lessen the annoyance! Here's a peek at what could have been:

I took the rather painful decision to take it apart and begin again. Glad I did however! Here's what I came up with:

The Mermaid (available on etsy)

Pretty simple at the end of the day! I am glad I was able to pare the inspiration down mentally. I chose not step AWAY from the detail, and be inspired by the bleeding colours and the watery, frondy feel. Yes, I know the chain has leaves to it and could be seen as Autumnal, but the feel of it seemed reminiscent of underwater plants - fronds that sway beneath the salty waves. 

It really started when I spotted this long-hoarded Round Rabbit porcelain pendant, which had just the perfect bleeding of colour to it:

 Add to that rustic freshwater pearls from Smitten Beads and a single matte glazed ceramic round from Kylie Parry and you have my finished necklace. 

The Mermaid (available on etsy)

If you would like to create something based on this month's (or any month's, for that matter!) challenge, then here are the Challenge Guidelines. Each month, we have at least 2 sponsors from whom you can win prizes for entering. There are some really awesome prizes on offer this month (and every month)! Have a look at what you could win by entering. I hope you will join us!

Rebecca is a Scottish jewellery designer, currently living in Belfast, Northern Ireland. You can read more about her and her work at her blog, songbeads.blogspot.com and see more of her jewellery at songbead.etsy.com. She also has a supplies shop at thecuriousbeadshop.etsy.com.


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