One woman's adventures in the land of hand made jewellery

Monday, 29 November 2010

A Few From Earlier....

Funky Wooden Beads

Do you ever worry about how your mind works? I spent sometime week or so ago being inspired by my wooden bead stash. Then, searching for something else, I turned up a selection of green stones decided to make a glittery party necklace with some matching earrings. Obviously I'd had enough of being funky... or perhaps I really should be worried.
Party Time in Green

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Jewellery Design - the process?

I picked up some lovely shells on the beach at the yacht club recently. They seemed quite exotic to my British eye all swirly and spiky so I wanted to make some jewellery with them. But how, with what? There were no convenient holes to add a jump ring to or thread some chord through. For a week or so all the shells I'd gathered sat on my kitchen worktop and I simply admired them each time I put the kettle on. Some were shiney orange as if varnished others rough with barnacles but my favourite of all remained the white spikey ones. From a brief trawl of the web I believe they are some kind of "Murex" but shell indentification is not my forte. They are pretty however and I wanted to wear them. What could I do that would serve as a permanent reminder of my time in Bahrain (which is rapidly coming to an end) and which would compliment my wardrobe?

Earrings? There wasn't a matched pair of shells and my favourite ones were anyway far too spiney to be comfortable suspended under my ears, close to the neck. Bracelet? Too fragile. Pendent on a necklace... that seems right but what would show them off best? The design process is a funny one. Part inspiration and part perspiration.

First I needed to suspend my shell and was reminded of a email from one of the beading magazine publishers I received a month or so ago where an awkward shaped stone was wrapped in wire to make a pendant. I looked it up decided it wasn't really what I wanted and instead made a gentle spiral of thin 1mm gauge brass wire round a fat marker pen leaving plenty of spare wire at either end. This fitted over my shell with a bit of easing and teasing to fit the wire round and over the spikes. The soft wire opened up too much though and the fragile shell nearly landed on the tiled floor. for security I fashioned a U in one end of the wire and slipped it into the tight curl at the bottom of the shell, a few minutes of further fiddling and the rest of the wire curled round and up following the swirls of the shell and cumulating in a neat twisted loop. I had my pendant.

Inspired by my sucess with the pendant I dug through my stash of beads and ended up making two other necklaces with beads I uncovered before I hit on the right combination of colours and textures to suit my shell! I left the shell and various selections of potential beady companions on a tray over night, pored over it again whilst eating my breakfast and eventually in the afternoon made my choice. Pale round wooden beads interspersed with darker rice shaped beads also in wood. All threaded on tiger tail with a pale brown ribbon fastening, hinting at driftwood but so much smoother. Just right for a beach find but I'm still not sure I understand the thought processes that result in a pleasing design.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Inspired By A Museum Visit

Old Emirati Jewellery in the Dubai Museum
Heavy, chunky jewellery is in vogue so inspired by some pieces I'd seen in the Dubai museum on a recent visit I decided to have a go at a tassel necklace.

My first problem was how to work with all the threads potentially required. The blue glass beads I'd set my heart on for my first tassled necklace "Sea And Sky" (picture below) had relatively small holes but being heavy required some sturdy stringing thread. I selected a blue polyester cord, two strands of which would just fit through the smallest of my selected beads. Looking through some of the beading books I have on my shelf there seemed to be many ways of creating a tassel. Some use all the threads throughout the work, some add in extra threads for the tassle whilst others use materials like embroidery silk skeins which naturally splits into many threads..

Sea And Sky Necklace
For Sea And Sky I used two threads of polyester chord on either side of the necklace, four lengths in all. Two threads were around 70 cm long being the overall necklace length plus extra for the tassle ends and some 15cm spare, the other two were much shorter at 30 cm. After knotting the two ends of the longer chords together I passed both threads through a calotte. Each chord end then received a dab of nail varnish and whilst wet I rolled the ends in my finger tips to make them as fine as possible. It was still fiddly to thread the smaller beads and despite the nail varnish the ends still frayed eventually. However, by starting with extra thread I was able to trim and retreat the fraying ends from time to time. I repeated the process on the other side but this time just strung about an inch of beads onto the two threads.

The clasp was to form part of the decorative front of the piece  so once the main necklace was threaded I added a slightly larger bead. All four ends were threaded though this bead to form the top of the tassle. Below it I separated out the four threads and threaded beads onto each one in turn. Each tassle end was made a slightly different length. At the end of each tassle I by-passed the final seed bead and threaded the chord back through the next two or three beads and then having eased everything together but not so tight that the tasle became rigid, worked a knot. The remaining chord was threaded on up through a bead or two before cutting off any excess. I gave each knot a dab of nail varnish for extra security. Once all four tassle ends were worked all that remained was to add the clasp pieces to each calotte. 

This looked great and received several admiring comments from friends and family so I was inspired to become more complex. For my next piece I wanted a fuller tassle made from seed beads alone. In my bead stash I had a quantity of lovely greeny-blue bugle beads and grey-blue seed beads, exactly the colours that inspired the piece and some large silvered flat glass ovals. The effect I desired for my "Waterfall" necklace was of water like a stream over rocks. One of the ovals used as a focal bead would reflect light like a waterfall but the downside is that these are heavy beads, hence why they had languished so long in my box.

Tiger tail was used for the necklace strands mainly because it is much easier to thread seed beads on this stiffer material but also it would help support the focal bead weight. Two strands of greeny-blue bugles and one of grey-blue seed beads interspersed with slightly large pale blue glass beads were strung. Each length of beads was attached onto a small decorative brass connector at either end, plaiting the three strands a little for texture as I love the way beads at different angles sparkle in the light. The necklace was finished by adding some matching chain at either side and a fastening. Using chain reduces the amount of beads required and makes for more comfortable wear as I hate the scratchiness of glass bugle beads on the back of the neck. It's mostly hidden behind a collar or hair anyway.

The tassle is a completely separate structure which also comprises the "bail" for the focal bead. For this I strung around 2.5 cm of  seed beads into the middle of each of six 30 cm threads, I used Beadalon's Dandyline which is fine but strong. Then a single larger round pale blue glass bead was strung onto six of the threads. The same process was repeated on the other side. These two beads would prevent the seed beads disappearing in to the focal bead's large hole. Once the beads were centred I fed all twelve ends through the focal bead. Easing the loops I'd formed slightly I passed the main necklace through.

Then I set to work in much the same process as the previous tassle working each thread into a strand of beads, by-passing the end bead before passing the thread back through the beads. Each length of tassle was slightly different to give some depth to the "waterfall". I worked each one prior to finishing any of the ends off so that before knotting each tassle thread I could ease an individual tassle tight against its other end to ensure the beads in both tassles and the central "bail" were close together but not too taut. This was a bit fiddly but worth the effort. Having ensured the Dandyline ends in each tassle were securely knotted I finished off the knots with a dab of nail varnish. The end result is I'm sure you would agree very pretty, chunky and I am looking forward to having somewhere special to wear it.