Monday, February 29, 2016

February Monthly Challenge Recap

I read a few blogs and posts that indicated that there was a difficulty with this month's inspiration painting. I chose it because it would be a challenge (that is what this is all about!) but also that it provided a wealth of really great aspects to consider.... from the strong geometric pattern of triangles and chevron waves to the details of the way-cool car and the compass rose to the bold colors... I really hoped there would be something for everyone in this inspiration!

I can tell you that I struggled a bit. Mainly because I was trying to teach myself how to do cane work (and that is something that takes many years to master!) and because my first attempts looked amateur at best, I ended up wasting one entire precious day this month with nothing to show but a bunch of really ugly polymer clay somethings (even I am not sure what they were trying to be!). My husband commented that it wasn't a day wasted if I found out what I didn't want to do. Truth.

So I tried again and I came up with a design that not only could I live with but was quickly falling in love with... including rescuing the mass of clay that I started out with on the wrong path and turned into something wickedly cool! I will be exploring this technique more, and although I am behind a bit in the creation for February, I hope my Club members won't mind (since I am all finished with March early!).  See if you can spot my new pendants in the slideshow (I only have so much of this cane, so there will only be a very limited number available in my shop soon!).

Let's see what inspired you! Add your link to the InLinkz code below and be entered to win some great prizes! 

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Friday, February 26, 2016

Inside the Studio with Erin Prais-Hintz

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 Andrea PorterYou have won of a $20 gift certificate to Humblebeads. Please email Heather Powers to claim your prize.


Hello Art Bead Peeps!
It seems that I neglected to post my Perfect Pairings from Wednesday...oops. Sorry about that! Some things were happening behind the scenes this week and I am just starting to make my way back to the surface. Anyway... here is who I would have picked... had I been on the ball...

Nan Smith created these cool component with the strong geometric patterns in mind from the challenge art. The colors are strong, the shape is long and lean and I love that they are not quite the same but yet so very much together. 

Please check out Nan's work at her blog:

Check back here on Leap Day for our February monthly challenge recap. Get those entries in! We are giving away some great prizes this month!

So what have I been up to lately? If I am honest and looking around my studio, there doesn't seem to be much going on. But then I have to remember that the January-February-March time in my life almost always seems that way. I like to call it my 'fallow' season. A time for planting seeds and making the soil just right for new ideas to poke through. 
Chinese Ornamental Chilli Sprouting from Flickr via Wylio
© 2009 Sam-Cat, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio
In 2010 I had my one and only solo art exhibit at the Gallery Q in Stevens Point. Of course, it wasn't truly solo, as I crafted it to be a collaborative effort between me, seven Q artists and 13 bead artists from around the world. I have often thought of doing something again, but could never find the right time, nor an abundance of open space in my life to make that happen.

But I had an idea for an art exhibit that I had been gnawing on for about two years... in January at our monthly members meeting I realized that the time was finally right. With an open spot on the calendar for September/October 2016, I took a deep breath and put my idea forward. 

Not only were the other artists happy to have me step in to fill that spot, there were several intrigued enough by my prospectus that they have indicated they want to play along with me. So now I have another collaborative art exhibit in the works and all my focus and energies are being funneled into this project.

The last time, (and I started about the same time for an August/September show) it took a lot of planning with artists, occupying the better part of the spring with the real bulk of the work happening in June and July. But with the way my life is these days, I know I cannot wait that long. So I am hoping to start with a calendar of ideas that I need to work on each month so that I am moving in the right direction. 

I am the worst sort of planner. I don't do calendars all that well. And I only get things done at the last minute. I don't want to be that way, yet I always have been. I am trying (somewhat unsuccessfully I might add) to be more proactive. But still, things keep popping up in my way.... like my daughter's dance performances in the April, complete with me making 10 year dancer necklaces (as is the tradition) and three necklaces for the director to wear this year (instead of just one), along with a host of fundraising elements for the show week... my son's high school graduation is looming at the end of May, complete with a Project Grad party where I have taken on the task of preparing the Senior DVD/Video with pictures of each kid from the past 18 years, and planning a party that we will host at our home to send him off to UW-Madison this fall... traveling to Florida to chaperone the dancers as they are guest performers in a show plus a dance intensive, and the following weekend traveling to Madison for a pre-collegiate dance invitational, both in mid-June... and that is just to mention a few things looming between now and then (not to mention work, baseball, my mom, the book club I joined in January, etc, etc, etc)... so I best get that calendar made up and try to stick to it! Okay. I know we are all busy, but I honestly don't know how I will do it. I just know that will. I have to. And now that I have told you, I know you will help hold me accountable, too! ;-)

So I am sure you are wondering what the theme is for the show... the theme is also the title:

Beauty in the Broken Places

It all started with this article I found about the ancient art of kintsugi, or the Japanese art of golden joinery. This article and artful video about embracing damage and seeing the beauty in the brokenness lead me down a rabbit hole of possibility...including this video.

The idea of kintsugi is that these flaws, these cracks are emblazoned with gold. It is the joining of the shards that makes the piece stronger in those broken places. It is about transformation. Cracks show the history, tell the story. The beauty in each of us is evident in the wounds that we all have. Celebrating our broken history, showing off our scars rather than trying to hide them...this is what makes the broken beautiful in a new way.

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.”
~ Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

From my exploration of kintsugi or kintsukuroi, I stumbled on wabi-sabi. The characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes. Impermanence and imperfection. From there I started thinking of the healing power of art. I don't want the art created for this exhibit to be a literal translation of any of these concepts (I am not going to go out and break bowls only to repair them). I want it to be multi-layered and something that will make people really stop and think. 
“Non-Japanese Makers may not realize it, but we practice this philosophy when we see a broken object’s potential, when we upcycle, when we repurpose, when we reincarnate an object that would otherwise likely be thrown away.” 
~MAKE magazine
Ideally, there will be pieces representing different media: jewelry, mosaic, painting, printmaking, sculpture, photography, ceramics, assemblage, upcycling, etc. And I have about a half dozen Q artists who will be lending their own artistic voices to my vision.

An additional feature that I want in the show is ekphrastic poetry written about the art and on the theme. ("An ekphrastic poem is a vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art." Thanks, Wikipedia!) I had an accomplished Wisconsin poet in mind for this. I contacted her and she is intrigued and totally on board. Yea!

My thought is to have an artist "talkback" on the opening reception where we can discuss our art and how we translated the theme, what our process is and how art has the power to heal us and bring us together.

Ideally, I would like to have a few workshops/classes related to the theme and the art hosted by myself and some of the other artists. This is a great way to reach out to more patrons and draw them into our processes. I plan to teach at least one class on making personal mantra jewelry and also one on making small personal shrines. I would love to see what the other artists might come up with. If it works with my poet, I would love to have a workshop on writing ekphrastic poetry based on the art. 
"Art is a wound turned into light." 
~ Georges Braque
There are a lot of themes that overlap and intertwine in this idea... forgiveness, healing, apologizing, brokenness... trauma that is repressed but not erased... how our faults, our flaws make us who we are... aging to perfection... repurposing old things to give them new life.... turning a negative into a transformed and luminous positive... rising from the ashes of despair, doubt, sadness to a new light... embracing our wounds, our cracks to make them the most beautiful part of us... telling the stories of the scars.

I want to explore the merging of these ancient Japanese concepts and interpret them in new ways. I want to broaden the scope of this show to include as many different perspectives as possible; hence, a collaborative show open to any Q artists. I want to focus on the transformative nature of art…how art has a powerful role in healing. I want to include a message component, with ekphrastic and other poetry written on the subjects presented and messages embedded in the art. I want to provide more intimate settings to expand on the artwork (process, technique, etc) and connect to our patrons about the theme as it relates to our own work, while also providing opportunities for helping others to find their own creative interpretations of the theme.

For my own art, I plan to do a mixture of things. Jewelry, obviously. Some that will include upcycled treasures, crusty finishes, visible cracks. I have been re-learning my soldering iron, gathering copper of all sorts, seeking new polymer clay techniques. If I have time, I will add some illustrated word art that features messages of hope. But I am most excited to be taking my Tesori Tesserae mixed media mosaics in a whole new direction. New shape. New textures. In the end I don't know that it will look anything like what I have been doing.

Perhaps this show will

Detail from the 10"x10" mixed media polymer clay mosaic "Today I am Wise" for the show "New Beginnings at Gallery Q Artists' Cooperative, January 2016
I have been reading books and devouring images of alternative art surfaces, mixed media techniques, discovering ways to coerce patina to bloom. I am embracing the messages that I want to impart with each piece and allowing their truth to settle in my soul so that I can have it peek through in the final pieces. I am looking at the mess that is my studio with new eyes, seeing the treasure like never before. I have been trolling thrift shops, hardware stores and my own personal stash. I have been amassing a lot of materials, supplies, and tools that on the surface seem like an incredibly chaotic and eclectic lot with no connections whatsoever. Now it is up to me to find the common thread, to make ready for the bursting forth of creative energy that is bound to come.

I wonder what these tiny vintage watch crystals will become...

Did I mention I only have about six months to get it all done? To fill up the gallery space. To plan the workshops. To rally the other artists. To market the show and encourage people to sign up for classes. So if I you don't hear much from me, you will know why. I will be making peace with the broken parts and letting the cracks bring forth the light.

So now the real work begins.
I have an extra pendant for the March Simple Truth component of the month (Totally behind on February but ahead of March! I can't show it here because it is still February, but trust me, you will love it!). I will send it to one lucky reader for an answer to this question...
How has art healed you?

I look forward to reading your answers!

Thursday, February 25, 2016


Well, it's coming a little out of the blue, but this is my last post as a member of the Art Bead Scene team.  I made the decision quite suddenly, on Saturday morning, when in a tizz about the lack of hours in the day. I've loved being a team member and interacting with you readers, and working with the other team members, but I've come to feel like I really need to re-focus my efforts to make the most of my days. I have so many plates spinning at the moment, and, at times, it feels like I've not really got my eye on them all as much as I might. Writing blog posts always takes that bit longer than you imagine. Even doing Etsy Picks posts - well, you just wouldn't believe the hours that can be consumed by looking at art beads on Etsy... oh, wait, hold on... perhaps you would?

So, I thought I'd leave you with a bit of a short, impromptu Inside The Studio post, to share some of the things that have been making demands on my time. Especially as that means that there'll be one last giveaway. First, of course, there have been new beads.

They've pretty much all sold out but there's a handful left in the shop, if you fancy a peek.  I really feel I should be spending time cracking on with making more. That's now on the schedule this week. However, in the last couple of weeks. I've primarily been focused on the metalwork that I wrote about in my last Inside the Studio post.  I've been happily settling into my new workspace, filling it with tools and pleasing things - the utilitarian things; the lovely, visual things. It's the closest I've ever got to a dedicated studio. (Well, my living room is as much studio as it is living room.) So, it's still kinda exciting - and I rather love its diminutive proportions.

(Apologies for the blur - it's hard to photograph this space through the aperture of its mini door.)

I really must thank all of you who expressed concerns about the lack of ventilation. (I even had one lovely reader message me. You know who you are - thanks again!) Of course, you were all right and I was... optimistic? After a few short bursts of soldering in there, even my raddled lungs were questioning the wisdom of it. Fortunately, I located another area of my flat that is also sorely underused and all set up for tolerating heat!

I know - I just boss health and safety! I must be making some progress because I've been happily soldering away in my pyjamas, which is not something I'd ever imagined. (NB. Never solder in your night clothes.) I had hoped to include some images of finished pieces with you. One thing I'm still getting my head round is the amount of time that metalwork takes (for instance, the filing, the endless, endless filing.... ) - especially when you're still learning. I just have to keep telling myself that there are things that were boggling a few weeks ago, that I'm now doing with some ease. I have a stack of things in the works, including a number of bezelled rings which now need setting. I had my first go at setting in my class last night. Like a fool, I'd imagined it would be a relatively quick job. Will I never learn? For the first time ever, I'm wishing I had muscles in my arms. Why can't I order them from Cookson's like everything else? So, rather than show you pictures of half finished rings and other empty bezel pieces, and 'prototypes' of things that didn't quite work this time round, I'll share a few pics of my 'regular' beaded jewellery.

(art beads - Numinosity, Shipwreck Dandy)

(art beads - Something to do Beads)

(art beads - Julia Hay)

(art beads - Donna Perplinplim)

(art beads - Something to do Beads)

(art beads - Something to do Beads)

(art beads - Happy Fish Things)

(art beads - Scorched Earth)

Anyway, I promised a giveaway. You know, it's got to be one last -

That graphic sure has earned its keep! There's no question this time; just leave a comment saying something and I'll pick a winner in a week's time and get in touch with whoever that is.

When deciding what to put in this last post, I wanted to include the rest of the team somehow. I thought about sharing images of everyone's work but I feel I've done a number of posts sharing images of beads lately - plus Julie did such an elegant job, when she signed off last month. So, I hope you'll think that it's fair that - just this once - the members of the team can also be entered in the giveaway, if they comment?

On which note, I must say a big thank you to everyone on the team, both present and past contributors. Thank you for having me! I'm hoping I might be back to write the odd guest post. And finally, a big thank you to all you readers, for commenting and sharing your enthusiasm and expertise, and your love of art beads.  And, thank you even if you don't comment - it's just great that you show up and read! So, yes, in general: Thanks!


Monday, February 22, 2016

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

Hello all! It's the last Muse of February - how did that happen?! And so I have a few more storage and packaging ideas to share with you today. Enjoy!

First of all, a really awesome tutorial from Leah over at Beady Eyed Bunny, on one way to transform your packaging. How gorgeous is this? Leah talks you through its creation. 

Remember the printer's cabinet from last week? Here's one in action in Lorelei Eurto's studio! Beautiful or what? 

And here is not only a beautiful, stream-lined craft space, but if you click on the link, there's a whole blog post on organising your craft space!

I've tired to steer clear of the ubiquitous kraft box in this month's run down, because lovely as they are, I think most people know where to find them and how to make them pretty! But searching on Pinterest, I came across these - what a lovely idea! (I even discovered/remembered that I actually have Jewellery Packaging board over there! Who knew?!)

This sweet packaging idea from Heather Humblebeads may be a little unseasonal for February, but I think this simple way to dress up your jewellery could work all year round - just switch up your colours and imagery each season!

Lastly, here's a handy graphic with some tips to take you through getting your packaging just right. Pin it to your work station!

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

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Firefly Design Studio Designers Challenge - Voting is Open!

I am hosting my first challenge and the entries are live!  The participants received a ceramic paisley kit in either neutral or bright colors and were to create a necklace, bracelet and earring set.  I have a group on Facebook where all the action is happening and you are invited to vote for your favorite! There are 4 pictures posted - 1 of each individual piece of jewelry and a collection shot where all 3 jewelry pieces are.  Your like or comment (you have to be a group member to comment but everyone can like the picture) on the collection photo is what counts.  Here is the link:

Here is a photo of the kits the participants received:


I also had a guest lampwork artist contribute a surprise bead to the kit.  Shannon Vickers from Blue Blazes Lampwork created a fun bicone bead to coordinate with each kit.

Here is an entry from Kimberly Kretschman:

I will be holding the challenges a few times a year.  I also award prizes!  First place receives a $100 bead package, second place receives a $50 bead package and third place receives a $25 bead package.  Voting is open through 11:59pm EST, Monday, February 29, 2016 with winners announce the next day.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Inside the Studio: Cross-Pollinating Ideas

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 Julie Bray!  You have won of a new set of beads from Firefly Design Studio!
Julie please email Michelle to receive your prize.

Cross-Pollinating Your Inspirations

Let's talk for a minute about cross-pollinating your jewelry inspirations. Want to know the secret to always coming up with fresh and new ideas?

It's a simple task despite the fact that centuries ago it was claimed, "There is nothing new under the sun." (Actually let's go back to Biblical times!) And it's true, we all have the same materials, the same influences, we see the same jewelry and techniques.

So how do you create something original?
Cross-pollination in creativity is the idea of pulling your inspirations from a wide variety of sources that may have nothing to do with your medium. So instead of looking at other jewelers for inspiration, cross-pollinate by pulling in your other hobbies, current fascinations and side-obsessions to bring in new ideas to your designs.

Maybe your love of adult coloring books will bring in new ideas for wire-work or color palettes that you played with on a coloring app. Maybe you'll be inspired to create jewelry based on your favorite book character. Studying an ancient culture may spark a new jewelry design. Maybe dance will inspire a movement in a jewelry creation.

Our monthly challenge uses art work to cross-pollinate new ideas borrowing colors and designs elements from art history.

Sometimes playing in a new medium can bring in ideas for your jewelry. I've been busy taking an illustration course on creating designs for the home decor market. You wouldn't believe how many jewelry and bead designs have sprung from this new source of creativity. You can see some of my paintings above and new jewelry inspired by them below.

For some further reading check out these two books that I have found life-changing!

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (really helpful if you ever doubt your creativity!)

This is the project for a class that I'm teaching this year inspired by my painting explorations.

So tell me one place that comes to mind that you can draw inspiration for cross-pollinating into your jewelry.

We'll draw one random comment next Friday for a $20 gift certificate.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Inspiration Part I

 Yesterday right before a long drawn out snow, sleet and freezing rain storm locked us in, a delightful package of sea shells from Florida arrived.  They were sent by a dear friend who had recently returned from a vacation in the sun and was sharing this beachy goodness with me.  I was so pleased to have them and so grateful for her generosity in packing them up, carrying them home and then posting them out to me, that I wanted to do something very special with them.

She knew I love textures and looked for them especially.  I began by sorting some of them into texture piles.  These I think of as poetic textures.

This assortment seems to me to be strong texrures with a clear statement of purpose.

And these are fun and almost silly. 

  In the process of sorting, I came up with the idea that I will turn this serendipitious gift of inspiration  into art beads and share what I make with you in my next Inside the Studio post on Art Bead Scene scheduled for March 25.  That is just a little over a  month away and should be time enough for me to show you what I made and how I did it.  I hope you like the  process of creating as much as I do and will look forward to seeing what I come up with.  I have not made a thing with these shells yet  so it will be a real adventure.

When I ventured outside this morning after the storm was over I found so many images that pleased me that I began taking pictures.  The ice was different than usual, it was dripping and making patterns.

And more patterns.

And watery.  When I got up close to the trunk of this tree I could see water moving along the tree's bark under the ice.  It was exciting.

And the sun cast its shadow on the snow.

This tree which we planted some time ago looked so sprightly in that field of snowed over ice, that  I have decided to add it and these other photo images into the inspirational mix and see how they come out as well.
Thanks so much for stopping by today.  See you in about a month with some art beads inspired by sea and ice.  

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Perfect Pairings :: SJ Designs + Golem + BeadyGirl + Firelily Glass

Perhaps the geometry of this month's inspiration has you stumped. Or the Americana colors. But I invite you to look past that to the wealth of opportunity in this month's art.

Sarajo Wentling did just that, discovering a bit of art bead magic in her stash with this Golem Design Studios ceramic bead. Golem makes magical lentil shaped beads with awesome patterns on them. This bead has flowers, yes, but they look very much like triangles to me. If the strong color palette is too much, try looking for patterns. Or focusing on the shapes. Or make something without any color at all...white on white will make a pattern or detail pop without being too patriotic.

This versatile bracelet style is something she learned from a tutorial by our friend Lorelei Eurto and can be adapted to so many options, as evidenced by her subsequent blog post. Check it out!

Featured Designer: SJDesignsJewelry
Featured Bead Artist :: 

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 16, 2016

Etsy Picks with the ABS Team

If all goes to plan, you'll be seeing a few changes and new developments on the blog in the coming months. There has been lots of talk behind the scenes: new features, schemes and plans.  The team are keen to get more involved with the monthly challenges. To this end, we'll be including an Etsy Picks which focuses on beads made by the team (so it will also stray off Etsy to include those team members who sell on independent websites). Hopefully, in time, we bead makers will do more to work with the challenge images in our own work. Until then, here's a selection that picks a little something from each of the team member's shops, all suited to use for this month's challenge.

Let's start with this fabulous clasp from Mary. I'm seriously coveting these clasp, and this one has that all important zigzag.

Okay - I couldn't decide between the clasp and this pendant - just the right colours and also more zigzags in those petals!

This focal from Michelle's shop shares similar qualities.

I think this triangular button from Tari's shop is perfectly suited. It would be a great clasp!

Looking for beads that match the palette of the challenge image?

Tesori Trovati (That's Erin!)

And don't forget those neutrals!

And if you don't have zigzags on any of your art beads, you could always reach for some spikes.

Finally, not only does this focal from Heather M. come close to the palette of the challenge, there's something in its sentiment - at a bit of a push! - that meets the aesthetics behind it!

Bye for now, Claire