Good day everyone, I trust you had a good week. I have been very rested, as I took some time off the day job, and found I had no pressing matters to attend to, so could chill, and make as many pieces of jewellery as I like, with little or no interruption.
This week, I tried out a new technique - chainmaille.
Chainmaille is the practice of linking rings to create interesting patterns, or more traditionally "sheets" of flexible metal for the purpose of armor or decoration. The name comes from the French word maille, derived from the Latin macula, which means a 'mesh of net'. The basic weaves use jump rings, which are open rings not intended to be soldered. For decorative use, the supportive structure of the weaves is enough to ensure the rings don't pull open.
I bought a rhodochrosite carved pendant a while ago - rhodochrosite is a reddish pink stone - the pink color of rhodochrosite is caused by the element manganese and it is formed when manganese is dissolved by ground water and combines with a carbonate material, then drips off the ceiling of caves and crevices deep underground. It is commonly found in the form of stalactites and stalagmites in the caves of Argentina. The Incas, who called it Inca Rose, believed that rhodochrosite is the blood of their former kings and queens that was turned to stone.
I am by no stretch of imagination a 'pink lady' - but I had to have the pendant - the carving called out to me - 'buy me Neena, buy me' it implored. I searched for a suitable way to tone down the pinkness - I bought Morganite - too pink, tektite - too black, rose quartz - even more 'too pink', and finally, after my bead stash was swollen with unsuitable (!) elements, I found frosted red agate - orangey pink/ red beads, smudged with inky black, and frosted over like the bloom on a grape - lovely!
The Mermaid's Song
This necklace just grrrrrew - couldnt stop it - I made a seahorse, a couple of starfish, and a 'fisherman's net' around the mermaid with fish and other shells caught up in it - and then thought I would try the chainmaille techniques out here to link the beads together - well, easier said than done - it is ever such a fiddly technique, and certainly not suited to sitting in front of the telly with a tray in your lap. But, I persevered and in the end, I am glad I did.
Love knots are very basic chain maille links, with three rings linked together, rather like a Russian wedding ring, and the individual bead links leading off the centre of the knot. All was well till I decided I didn't like the placement of one or two of the elements - it has to be just so for me - and for you - and everything needed to be taken apart and redone - but in the end, I liked the effect - a little more ornate than using just the one ring between elements, I may try this again, and who knows, one day, I might surprise myself with a bracelet made of chainmaille links (don't hold your breath, Neena!).
Diamond White is a necklace made of clear quartz needles with pewter coloured vintage focal beads from another necklace I cannibalised. It is also a cider with a hight alcohol content (12.5%) here in the UK and it had a certain following amongst my friends when I was young. I decided that I would use the name of an old favourite for this rather nice necklace. One of my friends said it made her think of winter - but hey, our non summer is almost over - and we have to face a bleak winter - what better way than to wear nice jewellery - wearing pretty stuff puts a smile on my face, anyway.
Here Comes The Sun
Confused?? - the weather here certainly is - one day it is hot and sunny, and the next it is raining cats and dogs and freezing cold - my jewellery efforts reflect that seesaw - so on this particular day, after a swim and a barbeque meal (no clearing up - yippee!), I sat down with a reel of copper wire and some peridot beads and made this.....
I love the green of peridot - wish it wasn't quite so expensive - but in common with amethysts and aquamarine, it is too expensive to buy in large amounts. Peridot is one of the few gemstones that occur in only one color, an olive green. The intensity and tint of the green comes from the iron in the crystal structure. It is also called Olivine - due to its colour, and is classed as a precious gem. I got the faceted teardrops on a visit to Capri, where they seem to have large deposits of the gemstone, and I used two of them in these copper wire earrings.
And while the barbeque was sizzling and Mike was slaving away over it, I put the polymer clay flowers I made a few weeks ago onto brooch backs and popped them in the oven to cure.
The Paisley pattern has been around for simply ages - its origins are claimed by the peoples of both India and Persia, but its Western name derives from the Scottish town of Paisley. In India, it is a common design, and thought to be a stylised mango. It was popularised in the Western world by the East India Company, and adopted by Liberty into the 'Liberty Print'. I am very familiar with this design, as it is very common in the gold thread work in South India, where I am from, originally, so I decided to make a paisley 'mango' in silver, with some delicious multicoloured tourmaline I acquired earlier, and add a fine silver daisy made from Precious Metal Clay in my kiln. I used wire netting to fill out the paisley shape with tourmaline beads, and hung it from the daisy on a silver chain - sweet!
The Wings of Love
A Hungarian jewellery maker I once bought a bracelet from posted a piece of embroidered jewellery she created around a beetle's wing - I was startled and thought then that she was joking, but not so - the naturally beautiful elytra (wings) of the Green Jewel beetle (Sternocera aequisignata) shift in color from green to hints of blue at the edges, and the surface is shiny and iridescent, giving the effect of sunlight on an oil-slick. The beetles have a short life span of 3-4 days, and when they die, they loose their wings, which are then collected up for use in various objects, and jewellery. No beetles are harmed in the making of this jewellery (phew!).
A bit more research revealed that beetle wings have been used for centuries by Indian civilizations, cut into tiny spangle shapes and sequins to adorn a range of objects, their reflective properties admired as a means to ward off evil spirits. The beetles, in beautiful colours are like living jewels, and in Victorian England it was the height of cool to have live jewel beetles tethered by tiny gold chains to your décolletage! The beetles were caged and fed, and covered with gemstones, if they weren't colourful enough, and taken on regular outings pinned to the lady's chest!
I set out looking for these wings, and found a vendor in Thailand, where these beetles are found, and am now the proud owner of a large number of these wings, this means that I will need to think up plenty of designs to use all of them, but I have no doubt that they will be liked - anyone who likes shiny, pretty things, is bound to like these. I made some earrings, just to get the feel of this new acquisition - but I just know that they will fly out of my hands real quick! I did worry a little about the word 'beetle' which does not conjure up the nicest image - but hey, if the Victorians could wear real live beetles, why shouldn't we wear the wings, beautiful as they are - just takes a bit of getting used to - and we do wear leather from dead animals all the time, don't we??
A bit more about those Victorians - they loved insect jewellery - apparently. For example, Caddisfly larvae glue together tiny stones, grains of sand, and bits of litter to form cases that camouflage and protect them from their natural enemies. When gold nuggets, shells, or semiprecious stones, were added to their cages, they incorporated these into their protective cases, which was later harvested and made into earrings, necklaces, tie tacks, and pins. Amber jewellery - or fossilised insect jewellery was also very popular, and remains so today.
Though light, the wings are quite robust. I accidentally stood on one and it didn't break (and I am no featherweight)! I will of course provide stoppers, as the earrings are very light - but the converse of that is that they can be made long as you like, without fearing for your earlobes! They make a pleasant swishing sound when they knock against each other - a sort of rustle - brings to mind long silk gowns - which is just the right mental image for these beautiful jewel coloured earrings.
The Flemish artist Jan Fabre created the ‘Heaven of Delight’ using 1.6 million of these wings! Fabre and his team of thirty people took 4 months to glue all of the beetle shells to the ceiling and a chandelier in the Heaven of Delight Hall of Mirrors, of the Royal Palace in Brussels. I would have associated the colours and the name with a more exotic place than Brussels, but Fabre really loved these beetle wings and used them extensively in a lot of his art.
I hope you have enjoyed the tale of the beetles - I really got stuck into my research about them, and found so much to talk about. The wings are truly beautiful, and I am surprised that they are not more commonly used in jewellery. I must mention Agi Kiss from Moonsafari Beads who set me off on this journey - you can see her piece here - http://www.etsy.com/shop/MoonsafariBeads
That's all for now folks. Catch you later
The view from the Tea Bar - is my gurning little friend trying to tell Mike something?
Hello all, I hope you have been enjoying your summer - in the UK we have had approximately 20 days of warmth, mainly in dribs and drabs - last weekend was good though, with a chance to sit outside in the sun - barbeque food flying off the shelves in the supermarkets - no one celebrates a sunny day like we do in the UK - we have so few. We have a thermometer mounted on the fence outside a kitchen window from the counter we call the 'tea bar' ( we drink a lot of tea in this house) and Mike tells me the temperature on the fence about twenty times a day - and it has been .... warm ... ish.
To celebrate our 30 seconds of summer, I made a couple of pieces with warm coral - I had some enamelled pendants made earlier, to which I had added polymer clay bezels, and I pulled out my collection of coral and turquoise and set to work. The first piece was inspired by the pendant, which reminded me of a tropical sunset, and the Flame of the Forest trees which are so common in India. We had some in school, and they had long flat seed pods, which we used to cover with silver paper from cigarette packets - we had no access to foil in those days, or Toys'rus - heaven forbid - and use them in mock sword fights. They are certainly a beautiful tree when in bloom, and the coral shards I used mimic them perfectly.
The second pendant was made using a cloisonne technique, where cells made of wire are used to keep the enamel colours apart - I made something resembling a 'tablet' - perhaps for a shy person as a gift to express his love - what can say it better than hearts and flowers - and very non calorific too. I added wire flowers and a heart, and more coral and turquoise, and this one is one of a kind - most definitely. A lot of people from a jewellery forum I belong to recognised it as my work, even before they read my name on my post - I think wire is truly something I love to play with, and obviously, it shows!
My newly acquired stash of crystal beads was by now feeling ignored, after all the attention it got last week, so to placate it, I made some dragonfly earrings - what better symbol of summer than a dragonfly - and here they are. The wings are made of Czech pressed glass daggers, and the earrings are on extra long kidney earwires.
I acquired a number of pendants, beads and baubles from a Nepalese artisan of the Limbu tribe in Kathmandu. The owner of the company supports indigenous tribal women, and the designs are made in the mountainous regions of Eastern Nepal, bordering on Bhutan and Sikkhim. Although relatively expensive, they are so beautiful, I was not able to resist them.
I want to make 'East meets West' fusion pieces of jewellery, that go with any sort of apparel, and have scoured the recesses of my mind for new ideas with traditional elements. The artisans themselves are well paid by the company that sold them to me, it warms my heart to find ethical vendors from the East, there is so much to be said for paying a fair price if it gets back to the right people.
Do feel free to leave me a message if you like the pieces that follow on these pages, as I use up the stuff I bought - they are too pretty to be put away in a drawer and forgotten about. I have enough for two to three weeks of enjoyable creating - it is bound to take me that long to find different ways of showing off these beauties, as I am keen for them to be as fantabulous as they deserve.
Yes, I have been busy - what with buying these, looking at them over and over, rummaging in the old stash, making the necklaces, photographing them and putting them online, both in the Facebook shop and on this website, doing a weeks work at the day job - Phew! - but I just got so excited when I acquired these, I couldn't resist making them up. I did buy a few more, but I have had to go looking for Lapis Lazuli beads to make them up - what I have is so pretty, it needs just the right beads to go with it - so have spent time sourcing the lapis beads, as well as all the other things I have had to keep up with this week.
Next week, I look forward to a visit from an old friend - we haven't met since 1971 and I might not have time to do much in the way of jewellery making. I leave you with a picture a friend from a jewellery making forum put up on her site. See you next week.
I was at work in the day job all last weekend - and this time the Gods weren't smiling on me - it was literally the weekend from hell! I was in and out of the hospital, picking up pieces that had been dropped by others, soothing ruffled feathers - and whatever could go wrong..... did.
So I came home each day and pulled out my beads and clay and soothed myself calm - it was so nice to be able to do that - and I think the people around me benifited from that! A three day weekend can be so tedious, when everything is unravelling around you.
Shiny pretty things - to appeal to the magpie in every woman
I took delivery of a bunch of crystals from someone who was closing down a bead shop - so while I sat watching the telly with Mike, I put together some pretty chandelier earrings - I felt the need to dive straight into the crystals - I usually hoard pretty things for some crazy reason, but it would be madness to hoard half a kilogram of mixed crystals. I poured them through my fingers, sorting them into little piles and picking the ones I wanted to use - like a wide eyed AliBaba in the cave of treasures - and these are the chandeliers I made with this multicolour medley of crystal beads.
Love's Sweet Scent
This piece evolved out of my disastrous weekend - I mixed myself some pretty buttery yellow clay to make flowers from - had just about had enough of various shades of pink - someone recently said that yellow is a difficult colour to create with, and apparently, some people wont wear yellow as it causes their skin to look sallow. I thought, maybe it could be used as an accent - to brighten up a piece of jewellery - a little bit of it can't hurt - and it is so pretty after all. A floral theme seemed to evolve - I made peony type flowers - which will go into a brooches, I think, and a bunch of jasmine flowers and buds - these are the little plump jasmine that have the most delicious scent - ladies in India might wear just the one in their hair and you can smell it from a mile off, if you have a halfway decent sense of smell. They are usually a creamy white, but I claimed artistic licence and made them in the yellow of the winter flowering jasmine found in more temperate climes - they are still pretty recognisable though..... I think!
My mother has a bush in her garden which yields loads of flowers - enough to use as offerings during her prayers, and for the ladies of the house to wear in their hair should the mood take them. I remember my dad bringing home little packets of jasmine garlands, all ready for pinning into mum's hair - and she always shared them with her daughters - I wonder if it was a secret message between them!
Anyway, mindful of the edict that too much yellow would not be appreciated, I wove my jasmine into a little corsage, and teamed it with turquoise coins, pearly beads and dark blue sunstone in a statement collar - I love making those. I am sure, come winter, when the only flowers we can find easily are in the supermarket, they will gladden the heart.
These jasmine are evocative of my childhood, and the bush growing outside my bedroom window, and I called it Love's Sweet Scent. The jasmine has been set low enough so it won't jab the wearer in the neck - I just love this necklace.
I also made some silver components in my kiln - more flowers!- I need to decide just what to do with them, so will just post a little sneak peek into what is to come. The polymer clay peony has very thin petals, to try and resemble the flower as closely as possible - it may be too fragile on a piece of jewellery that may be knocked about during regular wear, and will have to go into a brooch, though I originally inteded to use it on the wrist in a wide bracelet - like a prom corsage.
Jhumkas - Indian style in Wire and Crystal
I made some beadcaps using wire and crystal - when my friend Suj saw one of them, she said - Oh you can make Jhumkas out of them - Jhumkas are bell shaped danglers, and almost every Indian woman has a pair of these. They used to be simple, in gold and pearls, but have now become so fanciful, they are almost unrecognisable. I made mine in copper wire with some of my crystal bead stash in a colour combination of green and gold - very dressy. As these are all lightweight beads, the resultant piece is pretty and ornamental, yet light and easy to wear.
My little piece of Caprilicious silver this week is a tiny fine silver bud, about an inch long, made in the kiln, antiqued and polished, with a tiny red Cubic Zirconium emdedded into it. It comes with it's own chain, and is perfect for someone who likes her jewellery a bit smaller - as you all know, a lot of my stuff is 'in your face' and cannot be overlooked when worn - maybe because I was once innately shy, (although I have grown out of it now) but there was another side to me that was a bit 'song and dance', and didn't know quite how to reflect that, so preferred my apparel to do it for me. I could not buy chain store stuff if someone paid me.
Most of my designs are made with me in mind - if you don't want it, I should be happy to wear it myself - so, the corollary to this is, if you like the stuff I make, we must be kindred souls - Soul Sisters, even!
That's all for my week this time around - see you same time, same place next week
Jewellery making has taught me a few things about myself - I always thought I was a pragmatic, sensible person with a sober, practical bent. Who knew that deep within me, lurking somewhere, was a love of pretty, romantic images - roses, fairytales, pearls, sea foam, snow blossom....
If someone had asked what sort of jewellery I would have chosen to create a few years ago, I would have picked modern abstract pieces - squares within circles - you know what I mean - clean unfussy lines, gentle curves slashed by straight soaring gashes of colour, red and orange against black.... These are images that appeal to me, and I am drawn to them in art galleries and glossy brochures of modern art - and yet... when I think about putting my own creative forces into action, the objects that spring forth from my mind and hands are very different.
It would seem that deep within me, there is a very feminine side that longs for lace and flowers - I buy my gemstones and beads to conform to that side of me, and unsurprisingly, the resulting jewellery is as it is - I will leave you to be the judge of that.
I had some exciting news this week - my designs were featured in Bead Magazine - a whole page spread - boy, was I chuffed! I have a photograph of the page - the best I could get from my little camera, but it was nice to see that other jewellery makers rate my designs.
No sooner had I just about got used to this, a friend of mine informed me that a design I had posted idly on the online gallery of yet another jewellery makers magazine - this time Beads and Beyond - had won a £10 voucher! This was almost too much to take - all in one week!
I could have danced all night, I could have danced all night, etc. etc ..... but, what I did was to cook dinner, go to bed, and go to work the next day - Oh well, such is life!
I made a pendant with a pale green agate geode, very gently faceted to accentuate the markings of the crystalline structure within - the stone is rough cut at the edges, and I allowed that to be just visible - I didn't want a neat and tidy bezel hiding the edges. A wire rose appeared, almost by magic, some leaves, a vine - I love that particular effect clambering all over my jewellery - 'rose hips' of delicious yellow agate, malachite and a chrysocolla tear - drop. I added a pretty three dimensional butterfly to the edge of the necklace for a touch of whimsy - it looks like it is just taking flight, having had it's fill of nectar. When I explain my jewellery to my mother, she smiles at me as if to say ' what have I brought up here??' and I can almost see her tapping the side of her head - 'Toc Toc' and rolling her eyes! But there are people who get it - so this is for you kindred spirits - prosaic on the outside with a soft centre within...
I wanted some straight lines to contrast with the curves of the rose and the curlicues around the geode, and I think this works well, and will sit neatly within the collar or neck of a dress. And, I just love the way the butterfly almost seems to flutter on the edge of the piece.
The next piece came about because I had promised myself that I would make a bracelet this week, and also that I would add to the Caprilicious Silver collection with at least one piece a week - so, I combined the two. I have had this intriguing gemstone in my collection forever - it is a piece of Chiastolite - found in the Almeria district of Andalusia and so, also called Andalusite. It has needles of carbonaceous material included deep within, and when viewed in cross section it looks like a crucifix. Chiastolite is also called the 'lapis crucifer' or 'cross stone' in ancient texts. It is a dull brown stone, and I thought it needed pretty and shiny elements by it, to brighten it - unless the jewellery was for a monk! So here is the Andalusian Prayer Bracelet.
The citrine nuggets, aventurine cylinders and labradorite rondelles with their sheen when they catch the light, offset the dullness of the Chiastolite, and along with the shine from the silver, this is a handsome piece.
Six strands of tiny 3mm rose quartz beads interspersed with Swarovski pearls, with a knot holding a dyed Howlite donut - some of the strands are strung on red beading wire, bringing out the pink in the rose quartz, and the others on plain wire, giving it a paler whisper pink colour. The effect is that of the Snow Blossom, which is the flower from the cherry or the plum trees, which when in full bloom looks just like snow.
Finding ways to display jewellery online can be quite challenging - my other half is useless at photography and refuses to learn, so I have to do it all myself. I had to buy a dummy to display my necklaces as the pictures Mike took were shockingly poor, and now that I am going to make a few more bracelets, and do not have the requisite 'pale hands beside the Shalimar' I bought this dummy - it comes in two pieces, with a join exactly where the bracelet rests - I spent a lot of time editing the pictures to make the join unobtrusive after photographing the Andalusian Prayer - and then I was asked politely to put the arm away - he says he hates it - any more chuntering from Mike, and I might just put it where the sun dont shine!!!
Thats all for this week folks, have a good weekend, I am at the day job all weekend, hope it doesn't get too busy and I will have something to show you next week.
The Denise Cuff Bracelet
I finally finished the floral cuff bracelet for my friend Denise - and I named it in her honour. Last week it was almost done except for a touch of varnish, and I thought the leaves were a bit bright, so I dulled them a bit before varnishing the cuff.
Denise visits us in late August, and I will ask her to carry a gift for a friend who lives in 'Vegas. She took one look at the Enchanted Garden collar, and asked if I could make her a headband - I thought long and hard, before I made it - a clay lining to the headband would make it too heavy to wear - instant headache! I prefer to keep my friends, so decided to make some roses with the wire cured into them, and wrap them onto a headband with beads and leaves, almost like a tiara. I named it after Anna Karenina, the ultimate romantic tragedy heroine.
The Anna Headband
I took this picture on a glass dummy Mike brought back from a junk shop many years ago - it sits in a corner wearing a Chinese silk cap with a queue attached to it and a spare pair of my glasses on its nose. I wasn't allowed to use this picture on my website or Facebook page - Mike said it looked too weird (did he mean wired ??) and might put people off - wonder what he meant!!!!! I think it's quite funny, actually.
Begin the Beguine - brings back a night of tropical splendour....
I am very proud of this piece - it evolved from a butterfly I made when making some faux ivory pieces - I coloured it with alcohol ink, and put it away. Something made me bring it out again, and I made some more butterflies, and my favourite - a dragonfly to go with it. I made this necklace with some jewel coloured quartz nuggets and crystals, and it is so tropical and summery, I just had to call it Begin the Beguine.
These are a pair of beautifully cut, matched cushion cut citrines, and they have an asterisk shape cut into the back to allow even more light through. They were wrapped in square sterling silver wire which was then fashioned into heart shapes. They are very light and pretty, and I have had to provide rubber ear stoppers to prevent accidental loss - we all know how painful it is to lose a favourite earring, I won't let that happen to any of my patrons!
Begin the Beguine wrung me out - all those intricate butterflies, each one different from the other, and then putting them together so it would look like they were all fluttering around the necklace - but it was worth it for the message I received from the lady who bought it - she loved it, and I am so happy it went to a good home.
I also had a phone call from India, from the lady who bought Meluhan Sunset - a piece conceived by her imagination, translated into a piece of jewellery by me. It was taken to India by my mother and then couriered to New Delhi, to her office, where it sat, waiting for her to pick it up. Of course, she didnt't go to her office for one reason and another that week, and mum and I sat on pins, praying that it wasn't lost.
Anyway, she has it in her hot little hands now, and said she was drooling all over it, she loved it so much - it was fantastic to hear from her, and the relief that she had it, and loved it, was almost palpable.
I made the brooch myself this time with polymer clay and attached a wire dove to it. I am enjoying these little brooches - polymer clay is such a fantastic medium to play with. I concealed the wire holding the dove deep inside the brooch, and it is such a pleasure when the engineering of a piece works just so!
Last week, The Bollywood pendant was snapped up almost as I posted this blog, and an old school mate from Melbourne asked if I could make her another, with a pair of earrings to match. She is a wedding gown designer and makes evening wear as well, she says they will match the new gown that she will wear to a Fashion Award affair. Check out her designs on Facebook - Arlene D'Monte Designs and at Brides on Main http://www.bridesonmain.com.au/collection/collection.html
Here are the pieces I made for her.....
My designs on a red carpet - would you credit that??? - Hollywood next, I suppose!
That's all for this post, see you again next week, have a good weekend