Use the Muse III Big Reveal!

I have to admit that despite a very busy day with all sorts of calls on my time I took 'time out' to drool over all the fabulous entries for the Use the Muse contest! I just love SO many of the entries and have to say that I already have a couple of favorites -- not necessarily the ones deemed 'winners.' I aspire to being more creative in the future and I'm not short of inspiration when perusing these wonderful creations. It never ceases to amaze me how different the entries can be when each bead artist begins with the exact same 'kit' of beads. This is the part of the contest I enjoy the most, and the skill level here is just daunting. Congratulations to EVERYone who entered -- I feel every entry is a winner in one way or another. I can now reveal my own humble entry and must state that the photos do not do it justice.

Use the Muse -- my favorite part of this contest is nearly here!

I have to date entered all three of the Use the Muse contests, and cannot help but think that my experiences with all three contests have been so very different. I distinctly remember sending off for, and finally receiving the very first kit. I was quite excited as I knew it was going to be a challenge to even consider creating something from components I had not chosen myself. I feel now that I was a much 'younger' beader at that point, and know for sure, that given the same kit, I would do something very different today. The standard of the entries was awesome and the winning entry was inspiring and unique.

I was more prepared when it came to Use the Muse II and truly feel my entry was a worthy representation of my skills and abilities. I truly love the piece I created and am very proud of it. I grew SO much while working on this necklace. Once again the winning piece was just beautiful, and most worthy of the award. In fact I just totally enjoyed seeing all the entries!

And now here we are with just a few days to go to the publication of the Use the Muse III entries, and the announcement of the winner! The BIG REVEAL is truly my most favorite part of this contest! I just LOVe to see what others have managed to do with the same kit I myself received. I'm looking forward to seeing all the entries on December 17th.

This last Muse competition was a difficult one for me, as for whatever reason the beading was just not smooth going for me! I was happy with the concept, but actually working the piece was tough going. I was actually tempted to leave my entry unfinished and not enter it. I was under the weather as the deadline approached, but I pushed myself to finish the necklace and see it through, and felt happy to have accomplished even that much!

I'm sure the many entries will be just magnificent, as the Muse piece was very different and I'm sure inspired many beautiful designs. Roll on December 17th!

Celebration Retreat -- a huge success!

Just before Thanksgiving I flew to Orlando, Florida for the Celebration Retreat -- four wonderful days of what turned out to be intense beading! The retreat was organized by Melanie Potter, who also taught the first day's class. Carol Wilcox-Wells was our instructor for the other three days. I was particularly thrilled to meet Carol as she is the author of the very first book on beading I ever read -- The Art & Elegance of Beadweaving: New Jewelry Designs with Classic Stitches. I borrowed this book from the local library and liked it so much I then purchased my own hard-cover copy. I will refer to it from time to time to this day and still find something new to learn every time I turn the pages. Carol autographed the book, and so now it has so much more meaning for me.

The first day's class with Melanie was intense and others there with me agreed they felt the same way. The primary stitch learned was Chevron Chain, and I can assure you that upon completion of this project, Chevron Chain is second nature to me! I love Melanie's style! There were so many new elements to learn -- and I know that in the future I'll make use of all of these techniques that were very new to me that day. Melanie herself was an excellent and enjoyable instructor, and it was a joy to take her class.

Carol's classes were wonderful and I learned something new and different every single day. In fact the project I felt I'd least like, turned out to be the one I loved most of all. Once again the projects covered Chevron Chain and innovative uses of many other stitches. I actually chose not to use the prepared kits for Carol's classes, but chose my own beads and colorways and am very pleased with the results of all projects to date. I do have to say though that the color choices for the various kits are just awesome, and the quality of the beads included in the kits is top class. I also loved the clarity of the written instructions, but am glad to have attended the classes as Carol explained and shared some alternate techniques and methods that were not included in the instructions. I actually preferred the alternative method Carol described for capturing a Rivoli in one of the projects, and was thrilled when it worked to perfection for me.

In the month or so since the retreat I've beaded whenever possible and have totally completed two of the four projects and surprised myself by completing my own variation of one of the projects. They are all time-intensive, but so well worth the time and effort. Carol herself says it takes her forty hours to complete the Ruffled Lace project!

I feel I have grown exponentially once again since the retreat. Not only have my beading skills been bumped up a notch, but I find I'm thinking slightly differently when it comes to the possibility of designing! I now fully understand the concept of working with repeating components to form a completed project, and have totally enjoyed working with several diverse components to make up the whole. I've definitely added some new stitches to my repertoire, and have worked with unfoiled crystal components as well as pretty chatons for the very first time. I know that bezelled chatons will appear in future works as I find these just fascinating. I cannot wait to finish all these projects completely so that I can get to creating again using the newly acquired techniques.

I thoroughly enjoyed this treat, along with the time spent at Disney World with my hubby and youngest son, and all in all felt very blessed indeed to have been able to attend this awesome event.

Time flies when you're having fun!

Hard to imagine that so much time has flown by since my last post. I guess I've been on the go as always, but also dealing with minor health issues that have been more frustrating than anything else. I know I was hard-hit by the 'flu -- whether it was THE 'flu or not is unknown -- but I've not had 'flu in years. However, the beading has been continuous if a little spasmodic.

Since I last updated the blog, I've had the pleasure of taking a few classes through the Dallas Bead Society and must say I've thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I believe that new techniques or stitches open up worlds of possibilities and with one of Jill Wiseman's classes I completed the necklace as directed, but then went on to create another number of variations and I've totally enjoyed this process! The first and last necklace look quite different!

Over the last couple of months, I've participated in a bracelet swap, created a number of
bead embroidery pendants, made some more of my beaded cameos and bezelled a glass cabochon -- creating a pendant for a friend. I've completed two necklaces using resin to create the cameo, which I then bezel and fringe, and have also completed a number of bracelets in preparation for Christmas gift-giving!
Last but not least I've been experimenting with some new stitch variations and working to come up with something totally unique -- easier said, than done!

I've also worked on my entry for the Use the Muse III competition, which I felt did not go as smoothly as it should have done. I had to work at it this time round as the beads did not speak to me at all. However, I am very pleased to have been able to simply see it through and I'm totally looking forward to seeing all the other entries when the Muse is revealed!

As I write, I'm still packing my suitcases to take a wonderful masterclass with Carol-Wilcox Wells and DO plan on updating my Blog over the next week or so.

My Use the Muse II Revealed-- Selkie Symphony!

The Use the Muse II winners were announced when I was in Ireland for the funeral of my DH's elderly Aunt -- and much to my own dismay, on the day of Auntie's funeral there were TWO other family funerals on my own side of the family. While it is never easy for those who remain to lose a loved one, there was nevertheless much camaraderie and sharing of memories and a huge gathering of aunts, uncles and cousins. I felt it was propitious that we were in Dublin and able to meet up with so many family members, and share in the gatherings.

Just before our week in Dublin came to an end the Muse winners were announced, and I have to say I gave up a good hour's sleep just taking a quick look through the galleries at all the wonderful entries.

I have to say there was some disappointment for me that my beautiful piece was not worthy of a mention -- I think if you feel you have produced a wonderful piece, then you certainly harbor some HOPE that maybe -- just maybe -- you MIGHt be mentioned somewhere for SOME aspect of the work involved! Alas, it was not meant to be. That being said I must say I LOVED the winning entry and commend Diane Allen for the beautiful necklace she created. It is simply stunning and a more than worthy winner. Congrats to Diane!

My own piece perhaps lacked a certain amount of originality where 'conceptual design' is concerned, when compared to all of the submissions, but nevertheless I love it and feel I have improved tremendously as a designer AND as a craftsman as a result of taking on the challenge. I believe the muse piece and the beads just speak to me and I could only visualize this laser-cut shell pendant used as I used it! I can now see that many others used it in a similar manner. I believe that original use of the Muse piece was most important for this Muse competition.

I'm a glutton for punishment and so have already sent off for the Use the Muse III kit! (big smile) -- Onward and upward!!

I posted a close-up of the clasp in July -- and so am delighted now to be able to share my entry with everyone.

NO photograph can really do this piece justice. It is rich and luxurious and simply elegant, due mainly to the components. I must commend Scarlett for her choice of Muse piece -- this is truly a beautiful etched donut pendant.

While in San Francisco in June, I purchased ONE bead when I managed to briefly fit in a quick visit to General Beads. That was the beautiful Nobilus Shell bead, which was truly the inspiration I needed for this Muse necklace -- although I did not know that when I purchased it. It 'spoke' to me and I loved it and knew I could create something special around that one bead. My brother and his family, and my sister and her better half, all traveled to San Francisco (among other places) for their vacation and we joined them there. During that few days, my sis presented me with a bag of beautiful shells she had bought in the UK as she felt I'd make use of them in my beading pursuits! It was not until I returned to Texas that I placed the pearly shells from my sis WITH the Nobilus glass shell AND the Muse pendant and it was as though 'all of a sudden' my muse piece was there in front of me!

I like the idea of an asymmetrical necklace and so for this piece I used a spiral rope with increasingly larger beads toward the center of the pendant for one side, and a combination of some simple stringing and beaded chain on the other side. I'm proud of the workmanship here as I was meticulous about ending the threads and making sure I had nothing 'peeking out'!

I ended up beading around the outside of the shell pendant although this was not my initial intention. I felt when it was all together that this added some cohesiveness to the piece.

I truly had the most fun and the greatest challenge ensuring that the bottom fringing looked good, and hung exactly as I wanted it to! I can just shake this piece and the shells ALL fall exactly into place. I truly consider this a highly wearable piece and NOT one that needs any fussing with! I enjoyed creating the fringing and liked the fact that the deepest, darkest blue beads sat to the back and center of the fringing adding that much-needed 'depth' to the piece. This is actually the very first time I have used branch fringing!

The choice of seed beads along with the lovely Swarovski pearls and crystals as well as some beautiful natural top-drilled blue pearls really make this piece rich and luxurious. Regardless of the outcome of the 'competition' I truly love this necklace and will treasure it for a long time to come!

First Bead Retreat, First Class, GREAT Fun!

Well I cannot believe it has taken me so long to update my blog, but despite all that is going on I am determined to at least write a little about the wonderful Shreveport Bead Retreat I was lucky enough to attend last weekend! This was my first bead retreat ever, and certainly will NOT be my last. I had the honor and privilege of taking my first class ever from Gayle Goddard who was a total delight. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

I took every class I could fit in over the four days we were there, and on Saturday night beaded into the early hours of the morning in order to finish my challenge piece.

I must have been mad to take it on, as the challenge I chose was basically all that was on the table when I finally figured out what it was all about! I ended up with a three to four inch piece of thick copper wire like you'd find in a coat hanger; a large plastic donut pendant that has a copper tone, but brushed with gold; a one-inch gold-colored bead; various - about 8 - different smaller beads (some VERY pretty) and a plastic silver-colored half-inch daisy-spacer for want of a better description. NOT the nicest group of items and very, very challenging.

Believe it or not, my piece was the second-place winner and I can only say I was totally chuffed to hear my name called to receive the lovely tote that was the prize. I also received a Melanie Doerman CD with her Venus Flytrap bracelet tutorial which I will enjoy at some point in the future! This was truly a surprise and I have to say I got a great kick out of it all. I was honestly just MORE than happy to simply see the project through -- there was simply SO much talent on display at the retreat.

I found Jill Wiseman's Kumihimo class to be the most fun class of all, and perhaps the most satisfying. I have to hand it to Jill as she is truly a great teacher and her kits (yes I made some purchases!!) and instructions are just wonderful. The Kumihimo Class was a full capacity class, but most students finished their first ever Kumihimo bracelet! VERY satisfying and I am looking forward to delving into this even more over the next few weeks.

I was not able to fit in Janie Warnick's bracelet class "It's All in the Loop" but I was thrilled to receive her kit, and to be put through my paces by Janie after her class, and I HAVe to say it is a first-class quality kit for a very reasonable price and just the most versatile of bracelet patterns. I just LOVE it and send many thanks to Janie for the pleasure of working with her kit! Thanks Janie!

I also enjoyed Ann Page's class "Not Just Another Rope" and feel this versatile Russian stitch will turn in very handy in the future.

There was a wonderful bracelet exchange at the retreat and that too was just good fun! I participated and made a bracelet using a Ukrainian stitch.

I met SO many talented ladies it was just like being a kid in a candy store, seeing everyone's projects!

However one of the more unexpected events at the retreat for ME was when my table-mates decided I should teach them how to make the bracelet I had constructed while playing with the combination of ndebele (herringbone) and peyote stitches that I've enjoyed from Diane Fitzgerald's Book on Shaped Beadwork! I love green and this combination of green beads 'worked' for me.

This bracelet is simply a series of 'squares' that are then joined in any variety of ways (I've made three others) embellished, and then finished whatever way an individual might like! This particular bracelet has a Swarovski closure that became the focal point.

Everyone at the table wanted to learn and so in no time
flat there were many beautiful versions of the squares and I just cannot wait to see all the finished bracelets!

Thanks to Carolyn, Michaele, Gina and Mabel.

I could write for hours about the fun, the sharing and the talented beaders I met at this retreat. I feel I made some terrific new friends and I am truly grateful for this. I SO hope to meet these wonderful ladies again in the not too distant future and I hope our relationships can continue to grow.

I cannot close without of course saying a big Thank You to Ida Williams who arranges this every year. The teachers ALL volunteer their time, so all in all the retreat is reasonably priced and just a very friendly and warm gathering of like-minded crazy beaders. Thanks Ida! None of these things happen without a lot of hard work in the background and I know I'm only one of many who are grateful for this wonderful experience.

Click the title of this entry to learn more about the Shreveport Retreat!

Use the Muse II entry -- deadline is today!

Well I have agonized ad nauseum over the photos that needed to be submitted to Scarlett today. It is so difficult when the photos have to 'do the talking' for you and you KNOW these have to show your project to it's best advantage. I finally had to let them go -- send them off -- even though I'd have loved a third or even fourth photo to show this piece on different backgrounds. I am quite pleased with it at the end of the day, and will LOVE wearing it in time!

So now I move on to other projects and wait patiently for a couple of weeks or so until Scarlett and her team of judges arrive at a decision -- no mean feat at all I know. I cannot reveal the "muse" piece but will post a photo of the clasp at the back of the neck. I've used a vermeil hook and some beaded chain with a drop. I'm looking forward to being able to post a photo of the entire piece in the not too distant future!

Beading for a Cure 2010

I have to say I'm delighted my contribution to the Beading for a Cure cause is now complete. I have waited until the last minute to finally wrap it up and mail it in -- friends and family had to see it first!

I was quite excited initially to receive the lovely kit of beads. They evoked a watery scene and it wasn't long before the creative juices were flowing.

I decided to create a cameo especially for this bead set and am pleased with my choice. The illustration shows a flower fairy sailing across the dark waters of the night on her shell-boat. I grew up reading about flower-fairies so the

illustration appealed to me. The resin gives the cameo a solid and durable finish and overall I'm very pleased with the way it turned out.

I glued the cameo to a backing -- bezelled it and then backed it with ultrasuede. Using the 15/o's around the inner edge to hold the cameo itself gives it a delicate appearance -- I quite like these particular beads and will certainly continue to incorporate these in other projects!

The outer edge of the cameo was ultimately embellished with the indicolite Swarovski bicones and I purchased more of these to complete my design.

I placed the beautiful hand-made glass focal bead above the pendant like a 'crown' and attached one of the rose montees on the bail. This lovely bead certainly deserved to be front and center! The bail consists of some of the green erinite Swarovski bicones and I added one of the Rose Montees to the front of the bail. I am NOT a fan of the rose montees -- can you tell? However, I believe I adhered to the rules and incorporated one of every bead!

The pendant is fringed and once again I was pleased with the outcome -- there is a nice line from the outer bicones of the pendant to the outer points of the fringing.
For this project I created a spiral rope -- I've been using these a lot recently as this stitch allows for the use of a number of colors and the formation of pattern. For this particular project, the spiral rope allowed me to use a number of the beads. Once again I'm pleased with the overall appearance.

What I learned from using this color palette is that while it originally appeared to be a diverse palette when the beads were viewed in the tubes, I felt that too many of them were too close in color when actually used. I think I'd have liked a few matte beads in there somewhere!

I HOPE this contribution is well received and that the necklace will fetch a nice price to help the cause of raising funds for Colorectal Cancer Research. I am personally looking forward to seeing what every other participant chose to do with this exact same kit of beads! The Auctions for all the Beading for a Cure projects will take place on eBay, next March, 2010, which is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month.

This project is one that appealed to me personally, as I myself had a right sided hemicolectomy in 2001 when diagnosed with Carcinoid Cancer -- a Neuroendocrine Tumor. I am pleased to say that despite the constant progress of this slow-growing cancer, I am an 8-year survivor and am planning on many more productive and enjoyable BEADY years!

I often wonder if anyone reads these words -- if you read this, please DO leave a comment -- I'd be delighted to hear from you!

Another Project Completed

I was delighted to be able to deliver a commissioned piece this weekend. Some time ago an embellished spiral rope took the eye of a special friend and I'm glad to say that she was pleased with her pendant and spiral rope when I finally presented it.

The rope itself uses mainly size 15 beads as I love to work with these tiny wonders. The core beads are 11/o's and the rope also includes some 4mm glass pearls.

The resin cameo is actually far more delicate in appearance than the photos show! The cameo is bezelled back and front and the surround includes some 3mm glass pearls.

Time flies . . . when you're having fun!

It's hard to believe I have not posted here in over a month! Myself and my DH went to San Francisco mid-June, to meet up with family there on vacation and we had a total blast! Every day was a full one -- we did everything we could to see as much of the beautiful city as possible and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I actually visited ONE bead store (you can imagine the discipline that took) and purchased ONE very special bead. I am amazed myself! I had promised to spend a short time in the store and did just that -- much to everyone's surprise. General Beads is a veritable Aladdin's Cave and I will visit again in the not too distant future. That one bead purchase has been an inspiration to me and helped me decide what to finally do with the Use the Muse II project! Yay!!

Unfortunately, as a result of burning the candle at both ends during the San Francisco visit, I came down with a nasty 'flu and was 'under the weather' in a big way for the best part of a month. When I can't even bead I know I'm not well! Bronchitis in July is no fun.

I feel SO much better these past few days, and am busy with the needle, threads and beads once again. Life is good!

Use the Muse II Kit is Here!!

I just LOVe the colors in this wonderful little kit! My first thought was the kit was just so elegant . . . and so perhaps what I will create will be more 'me' than competition material, but I am SO looking forward to working with these wonderful goodies! I really, really love the Swarovski crystals -- I've never actually used this larger size of bead. This kit DOES present a number of challenges for me but I know once I've settled on what I'd like to create, that it will be a pleasure to work with these beads!

If you are thinking of participating in this wonderful contest, I'd encourage you to just jump in see what you can do! (You can enter here!) It is truly amazing what different people can do with the same kit of beads! And I'm already looking forward to the Big Reveal later this summer! Check out all the fabulous and diverse entries for the first Use the Muse contest -- there are truly some VERY talented beaders out there! I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone does.

Congrats and thanks to Scarlett for another wonderful beady palette!

Another step in the journey

I joined the ladies of the local Bead Society for the first time on Saturday and have to say I spent a wonderful few hours meeting some VERY talented beaders! I actually learned to slip-stitch a length of bead-crochet rope and must at some point in the future set aside some time to practice this. Our teacher's methods were most thorough and I truly felt I'd accomplished a LOT by learning how to start and finish the rope. Progress!

Also at the meeting a few volunteers (I was one!) received some size 15/o Delicas, as well as some Swarovski beads to experiment with. These came from Artbeads. I completed a pair of earrings from directions in Diane Fitzgerald's Book "Shaped Beadwork" and just love the results.
These are intertwining hexagon shapes. The tiny Delicas are SO fine (NOT the easiest to work with in the dark iris color) and the finished earrings are delicate and lightweight.

I'm looking forward to the next gathering and whatever excitement it brings!

Murphy's Law!

Well I worked hard this past weekend to try and finish the Pharoah's Daughter necklace by Marcia DeCoster, the pattern directions for which are published in the June/July Beadwork Magazine. Right Angle Weave is not a favorite stitch for me, and therefor one I needed a lot more practice with -- I certainly feel I've gotten that practice in working this project! Well I was very happy to be getting toward the end of all the stitching BUT . . . "Murphy's Law" reared it's ugly head and wouldn't you just believe it? I was all of 24 size 8 beads SHORT. How frustrating!! Almost there . . . but unable to finish it.

I'm a little perplexed, as the pattern calls for 23 grams of the size 8/o beads and while I did not use the EXACT same beads stipulated in the pattern, (the ones I chose are shiny and have a slight AB finish) I did have a 30 gram tube of size 8/o beads! AND I also made a slight adjustment in the pattern as I did not make the center of the necklace as deep as Marcia's pattern suggests. So to get through the complete 30 gram tube and STILL be a few beads short (to finish the very last rib) was just too much for me at the time. Sigh.

Today I brought home the much-needed tube of beads, with thanks to my eldest daughter who did the shopping for me, and saved me the fifty mile journey there and the same back! Guess what I'll be doing tonight? Hopefully tomorrow I can take some photos!

Use the Muse II Beading Contest!

Scarlett has launched her SECOND "Use the Muse" beading contest and I'm delighted to say that I've signed up for this experience again. I hope, as always, to do the bead-kit justice, and I know if nothing else that I'll grow personally from the challenge of working with a palette of beads AND some unusual items that I would not put together myself.

Although I participated in the first Use the Muse contest, I did not manage to earn any of the lovely prizes. The talent exhibited was tremendous and I still stand in awe of much of the work submitted. You can still see those entries on Scarlett's website! However, even now, I am very proud of the piece I made and am happy enough to have met the challenge and given it my best shot at that time. I hope to do the same this time around. The prizes for this contest are just amazing and I'm SO looking forward to seeing -- once again -- how everyone handles their bead-kit.

It is just amazing how so many people can receive the very same set of beads etc. and yet turn out such diverse projects! This is half the fun. I know that once again the "Muse" piece is something I've never used in previous projects and I've not yet incorporated ribbon either in any of my work to date. I'm BOUND to have fun with this one!

I grew in confidence and in ability in taking on the first Muse contest and so would most certainly encourage anyone even thinking about taking this on, to just jump in and DO it! There's still plenty of time to enter! Surprise yourself!!

Too Many thoughts and not enough time!

I've been working away this week on finishing a few more beaded cameos and just love doing these! The most recent ones are very 'formal' and I just love combining 3mm pearls with the seed beads. At some point in the future I'll make the tutorial available.

My current challenge is to actually complete a necklace that appeared on the front page of the recent issue of Beadwork Magazine! This was designed by Marcia DeCoster and I've chosen to do this for a couple of reasons. First of all the design truly appealed to me, and I'm making it in burgundy and raspberry tones, as I DO plan to wear this necklace! Secondly the fact that it is constructed using Right Angle Weave means that it was going to be a challenge for me, as I feel very comfortable with many other stitches, but just 'competent' with RAW! At this point I can honestly say I've learned a lot more about the stitch and DO love the flexibility and soft draping of the work. I am truly looking forward to finishing this and adding my own touches -- I can 'see' it all in my mind's eye. This is very time-consuming but I'm getting there!

I also have a few other projects on my plate and am looking forward to getting most if not all of these completed by the end of next week.

Meanwhile my inner designer has been working overtime and I have committed some of these thoughts to paper for the future! I made good use of my recent visit to the newly-opened Aunties Beads in Southlake, Texas by purchasing some wonderful delicas that were 50% off! Too many designs in my head and on paper, and simply NOT enough hours in each day to do it all!

Home again and busy with the beads and future plans!

Well it took a little while for me to get back to my poor neglected blog! I was happy to be able to bead away on the various flights to and from Ireland and felt my time was well spent. Many of the flight attendants on one flight came by to admire the work and ask questions and I enjoyed the conversations. I completed a herringbone rope and bead-embroidered pendant to match, and worked on a longer than usual spiral rope. I also completed a small RAW bracelet base, and will embelish that in time.

While in Dublin I managed to visit The Yellow Brick Road beadstore (as a beadaddict I think we develop our inbuilt radar!!) and was just thrilled to be able to purchase a beautiful clasp for a bracelet almost completed for my son-in-law. This is just SO neat and I hope to be able to find something similar here in the future. The young ladies at the Yellow Brick Road stay very busy and obviously love what they do!

The ball is rolling with regard to my teaching classes and I am SO excited about this. I have everything worked out for the first two classes and will look forward to starting in July. Having taught crafts of various forms in Ireland for many years, and sharing my love of knitting and canvas-work here in Texas over the years, I'm enjoying the thoughts of getting back to teaching again!

Today I'm thoroughly enjoying the company of our precious grandson, and am feeling truly blessed.

Working away . . . and preparing to travel

I've been busy on and off with a few new beading projects and am preparing now for a journey home to Ireland. Eleven hours of traveling! I have started a couple of projects and now that the design elements are all worked out and all that's left is the execution and finishing, I have packed my trusty boxes and have enough work to keep my hands and mind busy on the long journeys beginning this coming weekend.

I feel I have a 'foolproof' travel kit that suits MY needs! I know we are all different, but when I travel it's with some beadweaving work, and I usually take at least two projects with me. I don't like to 'design' as such when I'm flying or in the passenger seat of the car ... but I find that say a spiral rope or a bracelet base that I'm working on is an ideal travel-type project.

I actually use some nifty plastic photo-storage boxes that can be purchased at Michaels or Hobby Lobby. They come in a container with either six or twelve individual photo-storage boxes. (I also use these boxes to store my seed beads and as much as I can, I keep the beads in their original tubes ... the six inch tubes fit comfortably into the boxes.)

To get back to the 'travel kit' though I use a little Beadalon blue sticky mat that sticks to the bottom of the plastic box, and I have come to love these. The beads 'stick' to the blue mat, but are very easy to lift up with the needle ... there is no residue. The major advantage is that if you hit some turbulence and the 'box' is upset, the beads do not go all over the place.

I can fit my magnifying reading glasses, a small safety blade (tucked under the blue mat), necessary tubes of beads and thread bobbins. I take a little multi-tool in case I need the pliers to pull the needle through the beads. A few needles will stick quite nicely to the blue gel mat. Over the year I'll have a few 3-4 hour plane flights and one 'container' can keep me going for these hours.

These plastic containers are about an inch thick and measure approx. 4.75" x 6.75"

I can easily put one of these containers into my purse or slide it into my laptop bag or camera case, depending on what my hand luggage consists of. They seal beautifully and even the loose 15/0 seed beads that I so love remain safe and sound inside.

I have mastered the art of keeping this on my lap as I bead, and is SO easy to just close up if I need to put it away in a hurry.

This is MY solution and of course may not work for everyone -- but I thought I'd share in case this might appeal to someone.

Beading calms the nerves!!

I've written from time to time about the calming effect beading has for me. Well once again I've put this theory to the test, albeit unwillingly! Today my poor hubby was not feeling well when out working -- he was on a roof seeing to some equipment and it was 92 degrees here today! When he spoke of "tightness" in his chest, I was aware of the implications, and after phoning his doc, she said he should go to the ER for some testing. Needless to say I grabbed a tube of beads and my trusty travel box, so that my fingers could at least be busy during the time at the Emergency Room with him. I hate to have nothing to do, as wasting time (which is so precious to me) is something that does NOT sit well with me at all. I just started a RAW bracelet base that was soothing, mindless repetition but with a purpose to it, and so was once again grateful to the beads for calming my spirits.

Finishing what I've started!

After an Easter Weekend with ALL of my family in town and together for many meals (how cool is that?!) I did finally get to go shopping for some beads to add to and help finish the copper and cameo necklace. However, before I purchased the much-needed beads, I got back to finishing off a necklace for another of the Alphonse Mucha Cameos I created a number of weeks ago. I really love these and am delighted with the finished cameos! Who'd have known that working with the epoxy resin could yield such terrific results?!

Initially my thought was to work a spiral rope for this Mucha cameo, but I ended up using a new stitch for me, which is based on a simple Chevron Chain, but was actually created as I worked with the beads! I am just SO pleased with the outcome. The necklace 'strap' is so very fluid and the stitch allows it to sit beautifully without having to worry about it curving around the neck. There is a lot of movement in the stitch! I think it suits the cameo/pendant which is ornately stitched around the cameo, but simply finished because of it's larger size. I am delighted that this necklace is now complete.

I also finished the copper and cameo necklace (I love it!) that was inspired by my 'Use the Muse' entry.

Over the weekend I picked up the bead-embroidered strip which was to be my first embroidered bracelet and decided, despite the fact that I felt I could have done SO much of it differently, to simply go ahead and finish it. I learned a lot from that exercise -- particularly where finishing and edging the bracelet is concerned. I used a metal blank for the cuff and backed it with black Ultrasuede. There is still much room for improvement and I'm looking forward to my next bead-embroidered piece.

Celtic Trefoil -- lessons learned

Well today the sun is shining and my heart is skipping along with the happiness and personal satisfaction that comes with success! YES I did it! FINALLY!! My most recent Trefoil tribulations have all been resolved and ALL because of the fact that I used the CORRECT THREAD! I am happy to say that simply switching to the Nymo thread that Diane recommended has meant that the latest Trefoil efforts are very successful.

I started Trefoil #5 (!!) with the Nymo thread and some burgundy delicas and trimmed these with silver Toho Treasures, and although I could see where some
adjustments might make an improvement, I have to say I was very confident of a successful outcome, as I worked through the pattern. There is a certain amount of 'give' or stretch in this thread that is essential to the success of the design. Without this flexibility there is no hope of a successful outcome. Filled with the joy of the burgundy Trefoil I then went on to use the olive/pink 133 delicas my local bead store owner suggested, and love the colors. There's a pretty pink sheen to these beads that is not that obvious when photographed in the sunshine.

I stitched some lovely copper seed beads on the outer edges, after zipping the two layers together and am delighted with the finished item. I learned from making the burgundy Trefoil to add an extra copper bead at the three points -- it makes all the difference!

At some point in the future I'll incorporate the Trefoils into a necklace.

MANY thanks to Diane for her encouragement, which I so appreciate.

Continued adventures with Diane's Celtic Trefoil

I was encouraged to contact Diane Fitzgerald herself and with some trepidation I did just that! I was pleasantly surprised to receive a VERY gracious email reply from Diane shortly after sending the email. What a lovely lady! I sent Diane the photos of my initial attempts and her suggestions have to do with using the actual thread she recommends (I have not been doing that) AND playing a little with the tension to get the desired effect.

Well I sure wish I'd more time to devote to this, but I've done what I can and have not yet achieved success. Attempt #4 was going well until the first layer was mostly complete and ... one of the beads on the base row broke!! Can you believe it? In an attempt to keep the initial tension tight, I overdid it. My balloon burst and of course that was the end of that. I don't think I've ever worked as hard to achieve an outcome as I have with this, but I AM determined to master the pattern.

I DO need to shop for some more delicas, and make sure I am using the PERFECT thread -- so after the weekend I'll take up the needle again and give this lovely pattern another go!

Pleasantly side-tracked -- Diane Fitzgerald's new book!

Since 'discovering' seed beads, I've long admired the work of many talented beaders and have learned a lot from reading beading magazines and books. One of my most recent acquisitions is a copy of Diane Fitzgerald's latest book titled Shaped Beadwork. I feel that tackling ANY of these patterns will challenge me utterly, but understanding just what can be accomplished with the various stitches is surely part of exploring beadweaving. Diane's style is unique and easily recognizable and I've long admired her Celtic Trefoil in particular! One of the things on my bucket list is certainly to make a necklace using these marvelous shapes as they certainly appeal to my Celtic soul!

When the book arrived I was smitten and felt I just had to at least take the first step toward learning to make the Trefoil and so I did as instructed (yes -- I know -- I DID actually follow the directions!!) and completed a couple of the oval links beforehand. This exercise is essential to understand the construction of the 'corners' and also to see how the 'step-up' in the second layer of the Trefoil is accomplished.

SO FAR I've made three good attempts at making the Trefoil and to date I'm disappointed with the outcomes. My first attempt was accurate with regard to technique and pattern but it would not sit correctly at all. There's only so much 'give' with these lovely glass delica beads! That effort, although completed, I cut up -- and with the beads started on Trefoil #2. THIS time I noted the importance of the tension and actually worked rather loosely as I got to the outsides of the piece -- loose tension is NOT something I'm used to in peyote stitch! BUT the end result was "better" . . . NOT perfect though!

Even at this stage I could see that the work was not laying flat enough to continue with the second layer. I DO love these Delica beads, though! So at this point I added some copper seed beads to the outer edges, and I feel this is 'usable' although not all it could be! I still felt it was all down to tension so I tried it again. This time I used Toho Treasure beads in pink and silver and was very attentive to the tension and holding the piece so that the second layer was folding over as I worked -- as the finished piece should. It all LOOKED good enough to work

until it was zipped up, and even THIS time I felt it was not sitting flat enough. I was frustrated with this and am now looking for some constructive guidance as I am sure I'm missing something but cannot for the life of me figure out what it might be! I will reach out for some help and see what happens!

Exploring RAW a little more, and using some metal inserts

Having finished the little RAW bracelets and brought some joy to a couple of special people, I actually made one in a lime green -- a color I love to wear! This is simple and yet so much fun to wear! What I like best about this little bracelet is that it fits so comfortably and does not 'get in the way' at all. My daughter loves this design as she can wear it to work and type away quite happily!

Before putting the RAW away for a while (I still have two commission pieces I'm working on LOL) I wanted to use what I'd learned in constructing the Right Angle Weave base,

and so played with some beads and pearls to construct a circular necklace focal. I then added some seed beads to attach this to some small antiqued brass metal pieces I ordered on the internet and so the necklace 'grew.'

I am truly happy with the result -- can already see some more variations that I'd love to try but once again MUST mention that there are NEVER enough hours in the day!

Building on the Muse experience part two!

Well I've worked some with one of the copper pieces I purchased and have decided to use one of my resin cameos with it.

SO far, I've added some bead detail to the copper filigree piece

and have also added a bezel to the cameo.

I'm very happy with the way these have turned out and am working away to attach these to a beaded necklace -- I will need to find a more perfect series of beads to pull out some of the orange color in the cameo. So this is on hold, pending a trip to my favorite local bead store!

"Use the Muse" Contest Winners!

Well the anticipation of seeing the results of this wonderful contest was palpable . . . I kept checking the website to see if the results were posted. BOY was I thrilled to see all the beautiful pieces created from the same basic kit and I just HAVE to say that the judging was awesome and I'm sure not the easiest job! ALL of the winners produced beautiful and unusual pieces and I have to say I was very impressed. DO check them out!! I cannot help feeling that my own humble offering fell short in comparison BUT I have to say I DO actually FEEL like a winner, because I met the challenge and gave it my best effort! I love my finished necklace and keep thinking the photos did NOT at all do it justice. It is simple and elegant and highly wearable, and a piece I won't be parting with in the foreseeable future! My congrats to ALL the winners and of course congrats to every single entrant, as using the muse -- the antiqued brass filigree -- was indeed a challenge for many. I have spent ages just looking at all the beautiful photos of all SIXTY ONE entries and am amazed at the talent that's out there! I have much to learn and am looking forward to continuing my beady journey. Click on the title to see all the entries!

I certainly felt I was out of my depth when I first opened the package from Scarlett. First of all I felt that the kit itself was tiny! I wondered what I'd do with the beads I'd received. And of course the Muse piece left me stymied initially . . . I spent time with it in my hands trying to figure how best to use it. I considered folding it over a stone . . . cutting it and perhaps stitching it on a cuff . . . but in the end I decided to use it in all it's glory and make it the central point of a necklace. I'm still very happy with that decision. I was actually very pleased with the quality of the lovely Swarovski crystals and of those little pearls, provided in the kit. They all had such an elegant 'feel' to them and they shouted "Victoriana" to me. I loved the barrel Swarovski beads in particular, and felt they truly gave the whole piece a lift. I did not end up using the locket, but spent time shopping for an elegant clasp to finish the necklace. I used Fireline throughout and there are at least four strands used for the necklace . . . these were doubled back through the beads and each strand knotted with half-hitch knots back down through the beads. It is quite a robust piece, despite the use of the Fireline, as opposed to a beading wire.

I am hoping I'll be able to participate in the next competition Scarlett hopes to launch. This challenge taught me a lot and showed me that I have much to learn. I'm looking forward to doing just that!

Variations on RAW bracelet

I was pleased to finish the few variations on the RAW bracelets and now that they are completed they will find new homes. I always hope that the recipients enjoy what I make -- I DO know my daughters like their jewelry bits! I made the fuchsia colorway because I love these colors, and I have actually worn this bracelet already -- it is SO comfortable around the wrist! I have to get back to work now on the recent copper pieces I purchased in the local bead store, and am looking forward to working with these. I have decided to team one of the copper pieces with one of the resin cameos I made a few weeks ago . . . I intend to bezel the cameo and perhaps make use of some of the swarovski beads around the outside. Am looking forward to sharing this one when it's finished!

Right Angle Weave -- my first attempt

I actually broke out and purchased some swarovski crystals to embellish the next right angle weave piece I'm planning. I love Lisa Kan's work, and her most recent book -- Bead Romantique -- is one I'm delighted to have purchased some time ago. I was delighted to see her contribution to the current edition of Beadwork Magazine and was encouraged to finally conquer the fear of learning to do Right Angle Weave! I went ahead and stitched a bracelet-length strip of RAW using lined glass 11o's, embellished it with what I had on hand -- squares, triangles and hex beads for their texture -- and added a tubular clasp.
I have to say I'm delighted with the result. I will of course make this design again (was as always planning the 'improvements' in my head as I worked on it) and this time around I will include some crystals! I've managed to master most if not all of the other stitches, but never tried RAW. For the first piece of RAW I've attempted, the bracelet is wonderful.

This morning when I began my second bracelet-strip of RAW I got as far as making a square, and thought I'd like to make JUST this square into a pendant.
I felt that with metal connectors added to this square, I'd have a nice focal for a pendant to hang from or perhaps make this the focus of a necklace. I am SO very pleased with the results so far and am taking a break from it now just to write this before I go any further. I'll enclose a photo and hopefully another photo when the item is finished. (Adding photo of finished necklace!)
The metal connectors I chose came on a card with four pairs of connectors: one set each in a silver, gold, antique-gold and copper finish. I will use all four connectors and make slight variations ...I like to do this and fully explore each idea that besets me!

Building on the experience of using 'the muse'

I am relatively new to beadweaving, as I truly only purchased my first tube of seed beads less than six months ago. It took very little indeed for me to fall in love with the tiny beads and now totally love it. So sending away for the "Use the Muse" competition kit was indeed a big step -- I wondered if I was up to the challenge -- and now that this challenge has been met, I am anxious to explore using more filigree metal pieces with the seed beads.

When I received the 'muse' piece I honestly held it in my hands for ages, just dreaming! I considered folding it over a stone or bead ... cutting it ... bending a part of it .. but the more I played with it in my hand the more I liked it JUST as it was. I honestly felt I wanted a few of these pieces so that I could give free reign to my imagination and try different things with the same item. So for the actual entry I left the metal filigree exactly as it was. But yesterday, I actually went ahead and ordered some more of the same piece, and I have plans in place and scribbles on paper ready to use these in the near future. I have to be patient and wait for them to arrive via the US mail!! Today I spent some time in the local bead store (I think they know me!!) purchasing other metal pieces and more swarovski beads
in a couple of colors and I'm very happy with the bits and pieces I've brought home to experiment with. I am determined to stretch myself and consider other shapes and forms and just have fun with seeing where this all goes.

Use the Muse entry submitted!

I finally finished off my necklace entry for the Use the Muse contest and was truly very happy with the results. I'll be pleased to post a photo when permitted to do so! However, today was spent writing a few words to be published along with the photo and of course of taking a decent photograph or two. You'd think this was the easiest part, but in truth I found it difficult. There were many interruptions and the hours just melted away . . . so it was four o'clock today before it was all finally on it's way to Scarlett. I was very relieved when the email was sent and the project finally completed.

I enjoyed this exercise as it was totally a challenge for me. I have never incorporated an item such as this 'muse' piece into any of the jewelry pieces I have made to date. I have to say it stretched my designing abilities and challenged me to make my drawing a reality. I believe I ended up with a piece that does the muse kit justice and am VERY anxious indeed to see what everyone else has been able to produce. I believe much of the fun is in seeing what many others who receive exactly the same kit will produce.

I would like to thank Scarlett for this opportunity to 'grow' and am delighted to have had the opportunity to take part.

Productive and busy day!

What a productive if very busy day, I had today! I managed to find inspiration as I played with paper and pencil in an effort to come up with a workable design for Scarlett Lanson's "use the muse" contest. I usually start off with "what if . . . " then scribble a bit more on paper and finally feel that perhaps it's time to reach for the beads and thread. And this morning I could not WAIT to start working on this! I believe what I have will work! Now I have to run down a few more items to finish this, and with time available to me this weekend, should finish the piece with time to spare.

This afternoon and evening we were happy to entertain a wonderful out-of-town friend and enjoyed some lovely time together. I shared some of my beady work items and she fell for an 'almost-finished' (story of my life!) three-strand necklace using hematite beads and grey pearls.
So tonight I not only finished this (added cones and dressed up the closure somewhat), but I also make a nice pair of matching earrings. I just know when I present these to her tomorrow that she will be pleased. Putting a smile on someone's face is what makes me happiest!