Friday, February 12, 2016

Inside the Studio with Michelle McCarthy of Firefly Design Studio

Each week one of our contributors gives you a sneak peek into their studio, creative process or inspirations. We ask a related question of our readers and hope you'll leave comments! As an incentive, we offer a prize each week to encourage you to use that keyboard and tell us what you think. The following week a winner is chosen at random from all eligible entries. And here are the results from last week!

Congratulations to #6 - Susan Marling!  You have won a surprise package of wonderful beads from Mary Harding.  Please contact Mary to claim your prize.


My ceramic bead studio has been in high production mode for some time now.  The second half of December through the end of January was all about creating beads, pendants, buttons and cabochons for Cherry Tree Beads to take to Tucson with them.  They already represent my line on their wholesale website, so I was really excited for them to take them to the To Bead True Blue Show with them.  They should of arrived home from the show a day ago, so I haven't found out how it went, but hopefully many of my beads found new homes!

Every January and July I redesign my bead show trays.  I have had a lot of fun doing that this past month.  I pretty much split things up into sea life themes, nature themes, spacer beads, cabochons, earring pairs, bracelet toppers and my new sets.  Sets will be a focal pendant, bracelet topper or earring pair with matched up accent beads.

When I produce, I pile up the beads that I want to be a certain glaze color.  I place them on skewers so my hands stay away from the paint and place them in a wood holder to dry.

After they dry, I take a wet pipe cleaner and run that through all the holes or wire loops.  This helps prevent them from sticking to the bead trees while firing.  My last load is cooling in the kiln right now. I have my first bead show of the year this weekend in Pompano Beach, Florida.

Here is a kiln load still warm....

So I can fit quite a few beads in my kiln.  This load is white earthenware with cone 06 glazes which is a firing temperature of 1,855 degrees.  My kiln is digital and I usually fire on the fast schedule, which completes the cycle in a little under 4 hours.  But then I have to be patient during cooling.  It is another 8 hours later that I can open my kiln, which is around 150 degrees.  

I hope you have enjoyed reading a bit about my bead show production.  Now for my question.......

Since sets are a new product for me, I'd like some jewelry designer input.  Besides the focal, how many side beads would you like in a set?  All ceramic or a combination of materials?  I definitely don't want to take my set idea to a kit level Lol.  Please leave a comment below and a winner will be chosen by random number generator next week.  The lucky winner will receive one of my new sets!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Making Hand Made Stamps with Michelle McCarthy

I had a great time last week taking a class at the Open Studio in Englewood, Florida.  They have a pottery studio there and offered a class on making handmade stamps.  I have made flat texture plates, and a few press stamps on my own, but I wanted to learn to make rollers and better stamp handles.

Becca Brown was our instructor and she is a master potter full of wonderful tips and techniques. She made a few bases for us that were leather hard.  That takes a few hours so the ceramic clay isn't so wet.  That makes carving much cleaner and easier.  She gave us a clump of clay to work on making our own, and this is what it looked like before the carving (fun) part!

I had some carving tools already, but also got to try a few other ones.  I immediately ordered another carving set when I got home!  There are different shaped wire toppers to push, turn and pull into and through the clay.

Here they are in a rough state.  After they completely dried, I cleaned up all the rough edges and fired them into bisque, which makes them ready to use.

I rolled out a piece of clay into 1/4" thick and had fun sampling out my new designs!

I am really excited to make many more stamps and rollers.  I have been looking at doodle designs on Pinterest and have some ideas that are going to be really fun to try.  If you work in clay, you can also do similar techniques with polymer clay, too!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Perfect Pairings :: Precious Violet + Scorched Earth

I am so in love with everything about this month's artwork...the strong color palette... the geometric patterns... the vintage car... the wheels, the lights, the hood ornament... the compass... the art deco style of all of it!

There is a great nod to the geometric patterns in these earrings by UK designer Lindsay Philipson of Precious Violet. I like the way the dots on those spacer beads work with the stripes on the beads from Scorched Earth. The chain adds a strong black line detail and all the finishes make me want to reach out and touch these earrings.

Featured Designer: Precious Violet
Featured Bead Artist ::  Scorched Earth

We are now using Pinterest! 
You can find more details in this post about the exciting new changes
including a board devoted to art beads inspired by the monthly challenge!
(Ooh! Look! More pretty beads to lust after!)

Pretty please make sure that you post a link in your Pinterest description
so that I have someplace to attribute the picture! 
And don't forget to tell us about those art beads - providing links to bead makers is appreciated!

Deadline February 27th to get your pictures posted to the Pinterest boards for the creation of the Monthly Challenge Recap post for February 29th.

TIP: If you upload your photo rather than pin it from your blog or shop, edit the pin (the little pencil button) and add your link as the source. Save your edits. This will allow us to click directly on your photo and go to your blog or shop to read more about your entry. If you don't, I might not be able to access the photo to share it.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Monthly Challenge Color Palette

What a striking image for this month's color palette. The reddish-orange and navy blue are taken right out of the playbook of complimentary colors from color theory. One thing that makes this color combination so successful is the strong use of neutrals to balance out the two dominating colors. You'll also notice that the orange is the main color with the navy used less. Take that as a cue when working with complimentary colors, pick one as the main color and use the compliment as an accent.

I hope this month's inspiration gets your heart racing and muse ready to go! Looking forward to seeing your creations.

Here are some Humblebeads picks that match this month's palette.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Amuse the Muse - Jewellery Packaging and Bead Storage - with Rebecca of Songbead

Hello everyone! It's another Monday and another month. This month's theme is jewellery packaging and bead storage. I decided to throw them in together, and if we are having a partially fun time of it come the end of this leap year February, we may continue on into March! What do you say to that? 

We beaders and jewellery designers are almost as obsessed with bead storage and packaging as we are with beads themselves, right? (I'm sure I see at least some hands up there!) Something about organising our precious bead stashes really makes our souls happy, and there's nothing better than packaging your finished jewellery and art beads in a beautiful setting, worthy of their awesomeness. I'm going to be looking at the practical, the luxurious and the plain incredible! So without further ado, let's get going! 

Here's a lovely little shelving unit made from old pallet wood. This would be perfect for storing tools, and those bits and bobs that just need somewhere to go!

Love these cute cotton bags, they are so cute with those sparkly rings stamped on them, but still a nice open, rustic weave. 

Last of all, I think this one belongs in the realm of the plain incredible. This would satisfy anyone's desire to be a messy creative, and yet be able to close the doors on that mess every night. 

Looks innocuous enough at first...

...but look inside the brilliantly-named Narnia Crafting Station...

...and you'll discover the potential for all sorts of fun! 

And now for the BeadBlogger Links. Have a great week everyone!

Rebecca is a Scottish jewellery designer; currently living in the capital city of Edinburgh. You can read more about her and her work at her blog, and see more of her jewellery at She also has a supplies shop at

Friday, February 5, 2016

Inside the Studio with Mary Harding

Each week one of our contributors gives you a sneak peek into their studio, creative process or inspirations. We ask a related question of our readers and hope you'll leave comments! As an incentive, we offer a prize each week to encourage you to use that keyboard and tell us what you think. The following week a winner is chosen at random from all eligible entries. And here are the results from last week!

This week's winner is Janet Loomis of Anvil Artifacts. Congratulations! You have won a  MYSTERY BUNDLE OF BEADS from Claire Lockwood of Something To Do Beads.  Please contact Claire to claim your prize!!

I want to start off today by thanking you all for your wonderful, informative and supportive comments about Studio Tours on my last Inside the Studio post.( November 27. 2015)  It was so great to get  your take on them.  I really appreciate the time and enthusiasm you put into those comments.

                                           Bracelet Bars by Mary Harding

It has been quite a while since my last Inside the Studio post and I have been struggling with which of the many things I have been doing to tell you about today.  I have finally decided to go with the most recent which is preparing for an update to my Etsy Shop.  That is a topic that often plagues me.  I always think I will put lots of pieces on and have an update, but usually, I get excited when I make something new and put it on right away, so I never get to the point that I have a quantity of new work to show all at once.  But knowing for quite awhile that I would be writing this post for today, I decided to give it a try.
  And I am going to be somewhat successful.  I will be adding about 30-35 new pieces at 2:00PM today--I am still working on listing some and finishing others. I say somewhat since that is not a very large number of pieces, but I am beginning to get the  idea of  how to do this.  I have put all the pieces I have ready so far on Draft so that I can quickly download them to my shop at the given time.
In the process of telling you a bit about what I will be adding to the shop, I will also be letting you know what I have been doing.

First off, I have spent the last 2 days making new Poetic Grunge style toggle clasps.  I have truly enjoyed making these and bringing them from a dirty grungy mess to their finished state:  Here are a few:
Poetic Grunge series Toggle Clasps by MaryHardingJewelry

I have spent quite a bit of time in the last month experimenting with iron oxide and just love what it can do.  You will be seeing quite a bit of it already in my shop and some new tries as well. I also have written several blog posts lately about using it.  You can find them in a series beginning HERE
I began by doing some experiments.

                       Using iron oxide stain on earthenware ceramic clay  different results

I have working with different clays:  earthenware, porcelain, and stoneware.  My new love is a slightly buffer than buff stoneware clay.  It is wonderful to hand form with as it is very elastic and retains its moisture a long time by clay standards which makes if lots of fun for making beads and birds with.  And best of all it takes glazes and that oxide stain in just a heavenly fashion.
These pieces are too new for me to sell just yet but they will be coming out soon.  Truthfully, I love them so much I just can't part with them--and I rationalize, I am using them as a test pieces to reference the effects of the stain and glaze on the clay.  So here are few of the pieces I am using to record and test the clay with glazes and the iron stain.

                           Test beads for glazes and clay color

                                 More test beads for glaze and clay color at cone 5

Some of my pieces in the update are in porcelain and they too handle that iron oxide and glaze wonderfully.  I have been firing them to cone 5 in my new kiln that is so fun to use since it is so reliable and does a great firing job.  It has been a long time since I have had such a kiln.  My deepest gratitude to Don Seymour of ClayScapes in Syracuse New York for guiding me on this matter.

                             Porcelain pendants and Toggle Clasp by  MaryHardingJewelry

I love this time of year and this year especially because we are having such a mild winter.  This is the season that I like to explore and experiment.  Getting to my studio is easy since there are no outdoor garden and upkeep tasks and a sunny deck and river calling me away.   So I am feeling very productive. Here are some more of my new pieces in my shop/update.
Lilacs in Bud by MaryHardingJewelry

Three Ceramic Bracelet Bars by Mary Harding Jewelry

Barn Wood Toggle  Clasp Porcelain by MaryHardingJewelry

Heart Pendant by MaryHardingJewelry

Toggle Clasp by MaryHardingJewelry

Now for the Question:
Today I am offering a surprise package of pieces from my new favorite buff stoneware clay.  Not the ones you just saw but ones that I will be making especially for this occasion.  Here is my question:  What do you think of shop updates?  Like?  Dislike? Find them helpful or frustrating?  or a better idea like auctions, Facebook group sales?  Leave a comment below and you will be automatically entered .  A winner will be picked by the random number generator next week and announced in that Inside the  Studio post.
I so look forward to reading what you have to say.
Thanks so  much for stopping by today.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

February Monthly Challenge Sponsors + Prizes

Our Wonderful sponsors for the February Challenge.
We will have 2 Lucky Winners this Month!
Sasha Crow Design

Sasha Crow of Sasha Crow Design creates wonderful ceramic pieces and she uses decorative tin work to make beautifully imaginative, fantastical, one-of-a-kind jewelry. Her pieces are beautifully rustic, like broken pieces of your grandmothers china with patterned metal as the accent. Absolutely fabulous!! A must for your designs!
Sasha Crow Design is located in Springfield, Oregon.

Sasha is donating a $50 gift certificate.
: : :

Sharleen Newland of Shaterra creates lovely ceramic components. Along with her wonderful clay creations, Sharleen also crafts Leather Bracelets to use as a foundation for your own designs. Or you can purchase complete designs. Go buy some for your jewelry making stash!
Shaterra is located in Grove City, Ohio.

Sharleen is donating a $50 Gift Certificate .

Visit Sharleen on ShopifyEtsy, and Facebook.

: : :

Submit photos of your wonderful Jewelry creations using one or more Art Beads here.
Submit photos of your wonderful Bead creations here.

Vogue Cover by Sonia Delauney has many different elements that can be used for inspiration: figures, bold designs, automobiles, chevrons, triangles, compass rose, reds and blues.

We can't wait to see where your creativity takes you with the art for this month's challenge! 

**IMPORTANT** Please remember to put FEB ABS in the title or tag of your submission(s).  Pinterest doesn't keep Pins in the order they are posted.

Provide us with the artist of the Art Beads used and we always love to know all the materials you used. 

***Art Beads MUST be used in your entry.***