Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Springs

Near Richmond, Kentucky circa 1980
In a country without saints or shrines
I knew one who made his pilgrimage
to springs, where in his life's dry years
his mind held on. Everlasting,
people called them, and gave them names.
The water broke into sounds and shinings
at the vein mouth, bearing the taste
of the place, the deep rock, sweetness
out of the dark. He bent and drank
in bondage to the ground.
--Wendell Berry 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Pipestone Cuff Bracelet WIP

Click the image for a close-up
Been picking my way through this bead embroidery project using
pipestone (bauxite) heishi. It is so exquisite but the holes are small so
I have to use a size 13-0 needle.

Click the image for a close-up
Ingredients are freshwater pearls, Czech glass nailhead beads,
Czech charlottes (true-cuts), and the pipestone heishi sprinkled
with antique faceted steel cut beads.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Art School

"It's like you're walking around with this enormous suitcase full of magic and you are never allowed to open it, because the rules say that the things in that suitcase are not worthy of artistic consideration. Worlds, childhood memories, pretend, fantasy, archaeology -- all that. And so, until I could open that suitcase, I didn't really have anything to work with. It was like trying to paint with your hands tied behind your back." 
-- Melissa Zink

The other day while on my walk I took a quick detour into the Albuquerque Museum, where I was reminded how much I love the exhibit there of many fine contemporary New Mexico artists. Since I seem to be revisiting my own experiences in the UNM art department in the early 1980's, I especially liked this quote by Melissa Zink, who managed to survive art school, marriage, and children to eventually become a  full-time artist in northern New Mexico.

Here is more about Melissa and her artwork:


Monday, July 7, 2014

Book Review: Break the Rules Bead Embroidery

Diane's Beaded Dolly from the gallery section of the book
This book is awesome! It has everything I love -- beads, Frozen Charlotte dolls, and obscure Beatles references! Just out by Diane Hyde, it contains nearly two dozen projects that combine all kinds of non-bead materials in jewelry pieces that rely on bead stitching and bead embroidery to tie everything together.

Shells, thimbles, miniature dollhouse accessories, spoons, pen nibs, corks, eyeglass lenses -- all are captured and tamed in Diane's deft, original designs for pendants, necklaces, art dolls, earrings, bracelets, and more. I especially like her instructions for working with parts of porcelain trinkets. You should see the hens and chicks cuff bracelet. Seriously!

The materials are clearly listed along the outer page margins. My slight complaint is that tools aren't listed separately from supplies, but they are mostly contained toward the bottom of each list. The book contains abundant photographs and full-color illustrations, with instructions listed step-by-step, and headers for separate parts of the project.

Smart, smart creations by a gifted designer. It's not easy to integrate beads with objects, but Diane's use of color and proportion make the pieces work. If you're not into found objects, this book would not be for you. If you're fairly new to general jewelry and finishing techniques (for example, resins, sealers, drills), you will learn a lot with this book. As far as beading level of difficulty, I would recommend this book for intermediate level beaders who can manage a needle and thread and perhaps know a couple of simple stitches already.

Break the Rules Bead Embroidery: 22 Jewelry Projects Featuring Innovative Materials, by Diane Hyde (Lark Crafts)

Grade A+ Break the Rules Bead Embroidery: 22 Jewelry Projects Featuring Innovative Materials

Diane's website is While you're there, check out her very classy beadpunk gallery

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Feather Charms Tutorial

I've been making pendants using a bunch of found objects. It's so handy to know how to convert everyday things into hang-able charms. Feathers are a great example. There are a few techniques to choose from, but I like this one best because it's quick and easy, and also durable enough for jewelry projects.

You'll need just a few SUPPLIES: 
  • Fold-over cord end findings in gold or silver tone (I get mine from Rings and Things.)
  • A few feathers, any sizes and colors
  • Craft glue (I like The Ultimate from Crafter's Pick, available in hobby stores or online, because it's tacky, low toxicity, and dries clear and flexible.)

Fold-over Cord Ends
Clear drying, flexible craft glue
  • Craft knife, small sharp scissors, or a single-edge razor blade
  • Wide flat-nosed jewelry pliers

1. First, prepare the feathers. If the fluff goes all the way to the end, strip it off by pulling up the shaft on both sides. (You can put more than one feather inside the crimp, if the shaft is small.)

2. Before you glue, fold in one side of the finding. Don't fold in too much, though, or it will be too difficult to insert the feather and apply the glue. This little step makes it a lot easier to crimp the first side all the way down, while holding the feather and wet glue in place.

3. Next, lay the feather inside the finding with the end of the shaft sticking up past the top of the finding, so that it overlaps the hanging loop or even extends above it a little bit. (You'll trim this off later...)

4. Apply a bit of clear-drying craft glue inside the finding, covering the feather end. I usually squeeze out a dab of glue onto a piece of scrap paper, then pick up a small amount with a toothpick.  If you apply too much, just wipe off the excess later, after you close the finding completely.

5. Holding the feather in place inside the finding, grab your pliers and fold the 1st side in by squeezing the pliers tightly, leaving the 2nd half unfolded for now.

6. To close the 2nd side, grasp it with the pliers and pull it inward toward the center, as you did with the 1st side. Then switch plier positions and squeeze the 2nd side down over the 1st side. Finally, squeeze very tightly across the whole finding to make it as flat as possible.

7. Wipe off any excess glue before it sets, then let the glue dry completely.

8. Once the glue is dry, use your razor blade or craft knife to slice off the end of the shaft that sticks up past the top of the cord end. This creates a clean, finished look.

This is such a quick and easy way to make feathers hang-able. I made the samples for this tutorial in less than 5 minutes! Try using foldover crimps with other things like leather strips, fabric, lace, or millinery flowers.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Crystal Katana Rhinestone Pusher

I've been growing accustomed to Kellie DeFries' Crystal Katana tool for placing rhinestones, chatons and other fine geegaws into 2-part epoxy resin clay. The tool works great for that -- I like the wide barrel, so your hand doesn't get tired. But it's not too heavy to flip around when you need to use the other end. I find that placement is easier than the little ball of wax on a toothpick, which can stick too much.

This video shows some other kinds of projects -- how to glue flat-backs to plastic headphones, using white glue; how to use E6000 to bling some shoes; and how to use 2-part liquid epoxy to glue crystals to a metal license plate cover. Great information here...