Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What Can't You Do?

I’ve connected with quite a few jewelry artisans recently whose work I greatly admire, including Lorelei Eurto, Cindy Gimbrone, Lori Anderson, and many others.  These gifted artists have influenced my own designs in a way that’s really growing on me.

Up until recently, designing asymmetrical jewelry was a huge struggle for me.  My logical, orderly brain craves symmetry and patterns, and it takes me probably three times as long to design an asymmetrical necklace as it does a symmetrical piece.  The artists whose work I admire appear to have a natural gift for creating beauty out of a seemingly random handful of beads.  Naturally, since I’m kindof an ornery person at heart, I’m determined to conquer my asymmetrical fears.  I started with a positive attitude, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…”

You should have seen my workspace when I was designing this necklace!  I had beads and findings strewn from one end of the table to another (and even some under the table).  Of course, I had to adjust and readjust the balance until I got it right, but you wouldn’t want it to hang catawampus, now would you?

This necklace pushed me out of my comfort zone in another way:  I used much larger scale components than I'm accustomed to designing with.  The faceted black onyx rondelles were contributed to the Beading Daily bead swap by my good friend, Sherri Solawetz.  They measure 15x10mm – about twice as large as I usually work with.  In fact, I was so taken with these rondelles, that I made another asymmetrical piece, this time a bracelet:

You know what’s got me chuckling?  Sherri told me that she contributed these gorgeous onyx beads because she struggles to work with large components.  Up until recently, I would have said the same thing about myself.  But I'm finding it's lots more fun when I erase that preconception from my mind.  A whole new world opens up!

My muse sure seems to be in “chunky” and “asymmetrical” mode lately:

So what has my recent jewelry design journey taught me thus far?  To keep things simple, to incorporate plenty of movement, than chunky doesn’t have to equal heavy-weight, and to not limit my component choices to 4 – 6mm scale.

So I’m throwing away the “can’ts” and welcoming the “can’s”.  What habits are limiting your design potential these days?  And how are you going about conquering them?

Just keep telling yourself, "I know I can, I know I can, I know I can..."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Most Challenging Week

Are you the kind of person who avoids a challenge like the plague, or who can’t resist the gauntlet when it’s thrown down?  In case you hadn’t guessed, I happen to fall into the latter category.  I love a good challenge – nothing seems to get my creative juices flowing quite like a bit of sport.  It doesn’t seem to matter if there are valuable prizes offered, or merely the bragging rights, you can usually count me in.

This week I’ve been working on jewelry designs for two challenges:  Lorelei Eurto’s Michaels Challenge and my own Dollar Store Challenge.

In case you’re just tuning in, Lorelei issued a fun challenge a couple of weeks ago.  She went to her local Michaels and chose 6 strands of beads (that were on sale) plus a length of chain.  She then challenged her blog readers to do the same and design a necklace using the materials from Michaels plus two others.  After you’ve finished enjoying today’s amazing blog entry, click on the next blog in the list at the bottom of this post for the Michaels Challenge Blog Hop.

I was disappointed that I couldn’t find one of the beads at Michaels (the white cinnabar coins).  You didn’t think that would slow me down, did you?  To the challenge supplies I added an assortment of brass beads and findings and some gorgeous blue-green Czech glass squares.

I love the way the brass emphasizes the feminine palette of “Elephant Rides.”  I gotta tell ya, though, that this necklace was a challenge in more than one way.  I am a very logical, step-by-step thinker, and it’s very difficult for me to wrap my brain around an asymmetrical design.  Yet I think the results are worth the struggle, and hope you agree.

A closeup of the focal of Elephant Rides
Simple danglies
This week has been somewhat stressful, and I can’t think of a better stress-reliever than hammering on metal.  I’ve been eager to see where the metal gift card holder that I found at Dollar Tree would take me.

Remember this gift card box?
I began by using shears to cut off the rim of the box lid, resulting in a flat sheet of metal.  I hope you’ll bear with me – I’m new to metalworking and don’t own a jeweler’s saw yet.  It’s on my wish list, but meanwhile I’m making do.  I was amazed at how well I was able to make do with these shears I bought from Kim St. Jean.

To envision where I wanted to end up, I laid out the beads I had purchased with this project in mind.  I definitely had polka dots on the brain!

Note:  I don’t recommend using a Sharpie for this next step!  I then traced circles onto the front of the sheet metal with a Sharpie, fully expecting that I could remove the ink later with nail polish remover.  Unfortunately, some ink residue is left behind on the enamel, so use a wax pencil or other non-permanent writing implement.

Don't use a Sharpie!
 My shears worked quite well for cutting out these discs, although they did scratch the enamel in a few places (thankfully not inside the circles).  After cutting them out, I sanded the edges of the discs and use my dapping block set to create a gently convex surface.  Note to self:  hammering on dapping punches relieves almost as much stress as pounding on metal does.
Before using the dapping set
 All that was left was assembly.  I punched two holes in each polka dot dome so they could be used as links.  I then made additional links with brightly colored mother of pearl coins and silver-plated wire.  I ended up fashioning a clasp, and I’m not terribly pleased with the way it turned out.  (Note:  the bracelet is at the bottom of the photo below.)

Completed bracelet is at bottom of photo
 I played around with quite a few variations for earrings.  These are my two faves – which do you like better?

So what have you made recently with your dollar store bargains?

Michaels Challenge Blog Hop list:

Lorelei's Blog
Mary Harding
Hilary of Fryestyle
For My Sweet Daughter
My Life Under the Bus
Kristie of DreamSomeDesigns
Linda's Bead Blog & Meanderings
Copper Diem

Andrew Thornton
Raida of HavanaBeads
Erin of Treasuresfound
Molly of BeautifullyBrokenMe
Beading by Malin de Koning

Deborah M Purdy
Spirited Earth

Erin Siegel Jewelry
beads by breul
Beads for Busy Gals
Cynths Blog
Nayas Organized Chaos
Crafty Hope
2 catch a hummingbird

Rosebud For the Love of Beads
Jamberry Song
Peacock Fairy
Elysian Studio Art
Designs by Debi
sweet girl design

Silver Rose Designs
Tropic Beads (you are here)
Imaginative Jewelry
Magnolia Attic

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What Inspires Your Creativity?

For the majority of my life, I considered myself the least creative person on the planet.  What changed that?  In 2003, my very good friend, Marilyn Myers, taught me the basics of a new craft, beading.  Very quickly I discovered that making beaded jewelry speaks to my soul in a way that no other craft ever has (and I’ve tried most of them!).  In the ensuing months and years, I read every beading magazine and book I could get my hands on.  I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the designers who have generously shared their art in so many publications.

As I learned new beading techniques, I practiced them until I was relatively confident.  Then a couple of years ago, it snuck up on me.  Suddenly I found myself envisioning jewelry designs while I was in the shower, while lying in bed trying to fall asleep at night, or while riding my bike to my little bead shop.  I can’t draw my way out of a paper bag, but I keep a sketch book these days to document ideas while they’re fresh. 

At times, when I first envision a design, I’m able to clearly identify the source of inspiration, and at other times, ideas seem to come from out of the blue.   Yet I believe that all creative ideas generally have a source of inspiration, even if we’re unaware of it.

I’ve had a design idea percolating in my head for the past several days, ever since I picked up this gift card tin at Dollar Tree:

Every design I envision expands on the polka-dot theme in multiple ways.  I find it kindof interesting that my brain doesn’t focus so much on the palette, for example, but instead focuses on the pattern.  I wonder why that is?  I also wonder what process leads my inner muse to demand that I cut circle-shaped discs from the sheet metal of this tin, and use them as links or dangles.  Why doesn’t she, for example, encourage me to cut a trapezoid shape that would be used as a pendant?  Is it because I’m not creative enough?  Is my poor, overtaxed brain stuck in a circular rut?

I also wonder if I would be equally inspired by a photograph of a handful of marbles scattered on the floor.  What about a table full of cakes for the cake walk at a school carnival?  My mother’s button basket?  An advertisement for tires?  What determines which visuals (or sounds, textures, tastes, or aromas) are destined to inspire a jewelry design?

Creative inspiration is still very much a mystery to me, albeit a mystery I enjoy the fruits of!  I’d like to know what sorts of things inspire you as well as your thoughts on determining the source of creative inspiration.

Artbeads just announced a “What Inspires You?” necklace beading contest:  http://www.artbeads.com/what-inspires-you-design-contest.html?cmp=smfb.  They have prizes in two categories and entries are open through November 22, 2010.  I’m really looking forward to seeing the entries and inspires other artists.

I hope your muse is with you, and that you have a very beadiful day!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dollar Store Challenge, part 3

Happy 10-10-10!  And a very happy birthday to Marcia DeCoster!  http://www.maddesignsbeads.blogspot.com/

How have you spent your Sunday?  I finally finished a claret and brass charm bracelet that I’ve been working on for the past few days.  Next up are matching necklace and earrings.

A Fine Vintage

Clarice and I spent a wonderful afternoon yesterday with Karen, Iris, and Laura at Karen and Friends Beads in Melbourne, FL.  One of my treasures from our shopping trip is a new bench block that really came in handy this morning while I was finishing up the charm bracelet.  It needs a bit of polishing and weighs a ton, but is my new favorite tool!

Isn't my new bench block awesome?

This morning I also finally began my first Dollar Store Challenge project.  I confess that I took the easy route for this first piece and used the ivory organza ribbon in a kumihimo necklace.  I’ve only got a few inches done and this is my very first kumi endeavor.  Well, if you don’t count the short little sample piece I wove when the kumi loom first arrived in the mail the other day.  Since this is my very first kumi project, I decided to go with a simple round 8-strand braid.  In addition to the organza ribbon from Dollar Tree, I’m using three strands of art yarn that I ordered from Larkspur Funny Farm and Fiber Art Studio on ArtFire (http://www.artfire.com/users/larkspurfunnyfarm), three strands of DMC floss, and a strand of Mkiyuki gold-lined 8/0 seed beads strung on white pearl cotton.  I love the way the eyelash yarn adds texture to the braid (I’ve been very careful to keep it from twisting as I work).  And the single strand of beads adds just a hint of sparkle.

The beginning of my first Dollar Store Challenge project

A close-up of the beads and fibers

Three art yarns and a strand of chocolate truffle DMC floss

The ivory organza ribbon, strand of 8/0 seed beads, and two shades of DMC floss

I must confess, my tension hasn't been as even as it could be, and although the organza ribbon tends to get a bit lost in the braid, it helps to add a bit of depth to the palette.  I've discovered the kumihimo is very relaxing, and a great accompaniment to season 5 of Supernatural.  All in all, it's been a lovely Sunday.  I hope yours was as beadiful!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Dollar Store Challenge, part 2

Hey, ya’ll!  A couple of friends mentioned today that they don’t have a dollar or 99-cent store near their home and my friend Cat suggested checking out the $1 (or Euro) section of your local variety store.  That seems like a good plan to me!

I hit the Dollar Tree over by Millennia Mall this afternoon and found some totally awesome treasures.  It was quite a challenge to choose 10 items that I could somehow use to make beaded jewelry.  They had a pitiful craft section, so I ended up with only one item from that aisle – a spool of ivory organza ribbon.

I took a couple of pix of my finds, shown below.  Clockwise from top left:  something called a Smart Fit Button, a candle holder with an antiqued copper finish, a gift card holder tin (like an Altoid's tin), a dog collar charm, and some fake sea glass.  The gift card holder tin totally reeled me in.  I love those bright colors!

The second photo shows (clockwise from top left) a set of two mesh strainers, a spool of ivory organza ribbon, compass party favors, plastic gems with pendant-style holes in fall colors, and an eyeglass leash.

I felt like the eyeglass leash was kinda cheating since it's already considered jewelry-like, so I picked up one more item:

Don’t you know I have plans for those ornament hooks!  The beads are kinda cheesy looking, but who knows what I'll be able to make with them?  And if I use the jingle bells, I'll HAVE to remove the clappers or they'll drive me nuts!

Can you figure out what I've got in mind with some of these items?  I'll give you a hint...  The 7-cent circle punch I got from Harbor Freight is going to come in handy.  And so are my newly-acquired riveting skills.  (You read that right, the shelf tag said the circle punch was 7 cents, so that’s what I paid!)

I hope you’ll accept my challenge -- I can’t wait to see your treasures! It would be awesome if you posted a link to your blog/website/image host/whatever so we can have a peek.

Have a beadiful Friday!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dollar Store Challenge

Lately there have been a ton of forum and blog posts about jewelry “artists” who make others’ designs and sell them for a profit without obtaining the original designer’s permission.  Generally, following a pattern and producing a piece of jewelry for personal use, and in most cases even for a gift, is within the rights of the individual.  It’s a great way to learn a craft – it’s how I’ve learned my craft!  What concerns me is the individual who turns around and sells that piece of jewelry for profit.  I think we all agree that it’s dishonest, immoral, and in many cases illegal.

In the midst of a forum thread bashing copyright violators yesterday (to which I contributed), it suddenly occurred to me to ask why some jewelry “artists” copy designs and sell the jewelry.  I wondered if, by focusing on the negative so much, we were taking the wrong approach.  Perhaps it might help if we understood their motivation.

Why do YOU think people sell jewelry they’ve made from others’ designs?  There are probably a gazillion answers to that question, and I’d like to hear some of yours.

Among other things, I suspect that many design-copiers lack inspiration and confidence.  Would we be better advised to provide them with ideas for jump-starting creativity and with confidence-boosting encouragement, rather than focusing on the negative?  Granted, positive reinforcement didn’t work too well with my demon dachshund, but since we’re talking about people here, maybe we can make a difference.

One of my favorite ways to boost creativity and inspiration is by challenging myself in some way.  I’ll ‘fess up and admit that I’ve got a bit of a competitive streak (noooooooo, you don’t say???).  There are so many awesome beading challenges on the internet, but my budget’s kinda tight these days.  Which leads me to wonder if I can make designer jewelry on a dollar store budget.

So here’s the challenge:

Head to your nearest dollar/99-cent store.  Choose ten items that spark your creativity in some way and use them, along with your current stash, to design some awesome jewelry.

Gotta have rules, what’s a challenge without rules?:

1.     Each piece you make incorporates at least one dollar store find.
2.     You may use at most ten (10) items from the dollar store.
3.     All other components come from whatever you have on hand.

I’ll head to the dollar store tomorrow and hope you’ll join me.  If you’d like, comment to this post or drop me an e-mail letting me you know you’re IN.  Don’t forget to snap a quick photo before you start designing – it’ll be fun to see the Before and After photos!  I’ll post a preview of my dollar store treasures tomorrow.  In the meantime, I hope you have a very beadiful day!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Welcome, bead addicts!

Hello, dear friends! My name is Lisa Tracy.  I'm a self-taught jewelry artist and bead shop owner.  Beads are most definitely my passion!  I'm privileged to share with you my beaded jewelry design adventure.  How about if I start with a bit of background?

My saga began in June 2003, shortly after my family and I moved back to the tiny little island of Kwajalein, Marshall Islands.  (It’s about half-way between Hawaii and Australia.)  My very good friend, Marilyn, flew 8,000 miles for a visit to our tropical paradise.  At my request, she brought with her a basic set of beaded jewelry making tools, an assortment of beads and findings, and an organizer to keep me sane.  In between beachcombing and snorkeling, Marilyn taught me the basics of stringing beads and wirework.  I was instantly hooked!

Since Kwaj is so tiny and remote, there are extremely limited resources available.  There’s no craft store, and no other resources to feed my addiction.  So I subscribed to BeadStyle and Bead & Button magazines and ordered a few books online.  I devoured each issue voraciously, carefully reading through every project’s step-by-step instructions and following along with the diagrams.  So when I call myself self-taught, I suppose that’s not technically accurate.  But I definitely didn’t have access to classes and no one to teach me after Marilyn left.

So I practiced the basics until I had mastered them and gradually added other techniques to my repertoire.  Soon I was selling my handmade jewelry at the biannual craft fairs on Kwaj, which thankfully helped support my habit.

In 2007 a handful of friends convinced me to teach them a few basic jewelry-making skills and was soon teaching beginner and intermediate level classes.  Very rapidly, demand for locally available beading supplies grew, and before I knew it, I had turned my tiny dining room in our Government quarters into a bead shop.  For Christmas dinner in 2008, we set the coffee table in our living room and celebrated there!

In May 2009, for the first time ever, a very limited amount of commercial space became available to local small business owners.  I opened my bead shop and jewelry gallery, Tropic Jewelry & Beads in a corner of the former DVD Depot next to the base exchange.  As local residents and visitors discovered my shop, business grew.  In a very short time, my business was operating at a small profit.  My hobby had become a full-time job.  Thankfully, I had discovered my passion!

During these years, my jewelry-making skills increased in variety and depth.  I finally got up the courage to try my hand at off-loom beadweaving, making a bracelet with tubular peyote beaded beads.  I played around with a bit of wirework, learning about the properties of sterling silver.  I learned to identify and recognize the quality of semi-precious gemstones.  How achieve three-dimensional shapes with beads and thread.  How to achieve aesthetically pleasing and wear-resistant joins.  How seed manufacturers vary.  Why lampwork beads are so expensive.  And much, much more.

This learning process continues today – I pray it never ends!

Through this blog, I hope to share with you my beading adventures, past and present.  But be forewarned:  once bitten by the bead bug, you’re forever infected with an addiction for tiny sparkly things!

I hope you have a very beadiful day!

Me, taken at Bingham Falls in Vermont, where I vacationed with my son, Ryan (19), and my daughter, Christine (18), this past August.