Wednesday, December 30, 2015

December Monthly Recap

This painting picks up the perfect winter palette, soft and hazy with just hints of the spring that will come. And coincidentally, it is right on trend with the colors picked by Pantone for the coming year! Despite the quiet and contemplative colors, the angles, lines and shapes speak to a more vibrant and active scene, which I think suits the subject matter of Paris perfectly!

Come along with me and enjoy the offerings you made for this month's challenge.

Click this link to view: Art Bead Scene December 2015 Recap

As another year comes to a close, we can't thank you enough for all the support that you show to the Art Bead Scene. There is a world of amazing inspirations out there, and we are honored when you choose to come and be inspired by the art that we provide each month. We look forward to joining you on this journey of inspiration for 2016!

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 Review - Discovering What Is and Isn't Working for Your Business

This is the time of year for reflecting and dreaming, I'm just as susceptible to the collective reboot we all get to enjoy in January.

So here is what worked and didn't work for me in 2015 - I hope it helps you on your journey.

What Didn't Work for Me: 

- Not taking enough time for myself and managing stress

After suffering several stress induced illnesses over the years, you'd think I'd learn this lesson already. I have to manage stress and take more time for myself. I plan to spend more time at our local pool, exploring creative side projects that aren't biz related like painting, and taking days off. Also getting enough sleep is still a struggle for me, but I know I'm much more creative and happy when I'm well rested.

- Not being careful with my hands

Until you mess up your hands from working them to death - you just don't know how much trouble you can cause. Learn some massage and stretching techniques for your hands and take breaks often. Also if you haven't upgraded to ergonomic tools, put that on your New Year's to-do list. Your hands will thank you. 

- Over-scheduling and not allowing myself enough time between big events

I didn't give myself enough time while running off to events all over the country and caused myself some serious stress and all nighters trying to catch up on my regular day-to-day duties. 

- A messy studio

I know, we all have messy studios. Well, maybe there a few organized angels that have it all marked and put away. I struggle with this and after finishing two books this year and big events all year my studio is a series of piled up boxes and that needs to be tackled. I don't know how to do this, I've tried several methods over the years and it never sticks. Maybe this will be the year I grow up and learn to pick up after myself. 

- Not planning for enough events for the fall/Christmas selling season

Every fall I'm kicking myself for not planning out my fall better with events for selling jewelry. I have a schedule already set of deadlines for 2016 show applications.

- Reactionary scheduling/working

Most of my time this year was trying to catch up after events or rushing to finish work for deadlines. I  didn't have a schedule that felt reasonable or offered time for me to work on proactive projects instead of just whirling around trying to stay afloat. Mini-monthly goals, weekly goals and using my 6 Most Important Things daily task list will help with that for 2016. 

What Did Work

- Traveling and taking chances

As tough as it was during this transition year, traveling and teaching is one of my all time favorite things. Saying yes to new opportunities and stretching to work on new projects helped me grow as a person and helped my business grow. 

- Tackling big projects

I didn't shy away from big projects this year. In fact when a publisher came to me with a 52 project beadmaking book two weeks after I finished my second book, I said bring it on. There is no limit to our creativity. I did more, went bigger and loved the results. But now with a little more wisdom I know to over-estimate how long projects will take and set some boundaries as to how much work I can do in a year. Taking on bigger projects means letting go of smaller projects and setting priorities so that you can stay sane!  

- Connecting more directly with my customers

I created a Facebook group to have a space to chat with my customers, offer them specials and events. It's been the best thing I did this year. I love connecting more, making beady friends, being inspired by their feedback and projects. It feeds my soul. 

- Sending emails on a regular basis 

Can't stress this enough as the best thing I do for my business. I offer my email list free projects, tips and inspiration to make sure they enjoy getting my emails. It's by far the best sales tool I have in my bag of tricks. 

- Following my muse and going off on creative tangents
I didn't spend enough time this year making new beads, mainly for the big shows and during the holidays. But when I did, oh it was a little slice of heaven. I need to make time to have more fun in the studio, experimenting instead of only production work.

- Teaching more
Whether it was in person or online teaching helped increase my income. I love being with people, traveling and sharing my skills. I plan to teach more in 2016.

- Connecting and networking more 
Life stuck in the studio is no fun. Doing shows and events brought new opportunities and helped my business grow over the year. It's all about people, not sales. So the more you meet, connect and offer to the world, the more success you'll see head your way.


So that was my 2015, the good and the bad. The lessons and the triumphs will help me form my plan for 2016. Take some time this week to go over your year and make a list of what did and didn't work for you - what can you glean and take into 2016?

I wish you a year filled with beads, creativity and community! 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Amuse the Muse - Tiny Beads - with Rebecca of Songbead

Hello everyone! How have the last few days been for you? Wonderful, busy, tiring; full of good food and drink and loved ones, I hope. And of course, beads. Did anyone receive any art beads for Christmas? I didn't (sob!) - but I did treat myself to a new book which I'm excited to dive into! I also treated myself to a gorgeous pair of earrings. Handy being part of a group of super talented ladies here, isn't it? 

Anyway, onto Amuse the Muse - and my last post of the year! Can you believe it?! Our last lot of tiny beads - or any beads - for 2015. 

Here's to 2016 and a year full of creativity, fun - and beads!

And now for the BeadBlogger Links. Enjoy the end of the year 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

Thursday, December 24, 2015

12 Days of Christmas: Snowy Mountain Top Pendant

A snowy mountain made from sheet copper? Yep! I wanted to create a fun and playful winter pendant. This is a basic metal work project, it's great for a beginner but I do recommend a little practice before you dig into a finished pendant.

.016" or 22mm copper sheet
10mm polymer clay bead
5" 19 gauge steel wire
15mm gunmetal jump ring
4mm copper jump ring
24" copper chain
Live of sulphur gel
fine steel wool
Swellegant Tiffany Green Patina
Vintaj Patina Paint (marble)
Renaissance wax
Packing tape

Sharpie marker
Metal Shears
Metal file
Steel bench block
Riveting hammer
Metal hole punch
Wire cutters
Chain, flat and round nose pliers
3 paint brushes
Small plastic container

1. Draw a triangle on your metal with the Sharpie marker that is 1 1/2" wide at the base. With the metal shears cut out the triangle. Never cut with the tips of the shears, always in the center.

2. File the edges of the triangle with the metal file.

3. Tape one end of the triangle to the bench  block. Use the tapered end of the riveting hammer and strike on the metal with the hammer hitting flat on the metal. Hammer the lines vertically on mountain on 2/3 of the piece, leaving the top 1/3 plain for the snowy cap.

Note: If you hit on with the edge of the hammer it will leave a small mark instead of a long line. You may want to practice this technique before trying it on your finished piece.

4. Punch a hole at the top of the pendant.

5. In a small shallow dish, add a few drops of water and the pendant. Brush on the liver of sulfur gel to darken the copper. Turn over and brush the back of the pendant. Rinse in clean water. Dry with a paper towel.

6. Place the pendant on paper towel. With the other paint brush, brush on a light, even coat of the Swellegant patina on the textured half of the pendant. Don't brush on a thick layer.

Set a timer for 4 minutes. Rinse the patina off in clean water as soon as the timer goes off. Carefully pat dry with a paper towel - don't rub!

Note: The patina doesn't show hardly any color until it's rinsed off and dried. If you leave the patina on for too long or have too much of it on the metal it will turn bright green instead the blue/green patina.

7. Pat on a very thin layer of wax. Don't rub. the color will darken and then lighten again when the wax dries. Let the wax dry completely.

8. Shake the patina paint well, add a drop on top a plastic lid or piece of wax paper. Paint on patina paint on the top of pendant, overlapping the paint and blue/green patina slightly. Repeat with another layer if needed. Let dry completely and pat on a thin layer of wax.

9. With the 19 gauge wire, use the round nose pliers to form a large loop 2" from the bottom of the wire. Open the loop and slide on the pendant. Close the loop and create a wrapped loop above the pendant with the rest of the wire. Add on the polymer clay bead, create a wrapped loop above the bead.

10. Attach the 4mm jump ring to the bottom of both ends of the chain, close jump ring.

11. Attach the 15mm jump ring to the pendant and slide on the jump ring with the chain. Close the jump ring.

Resources: Jump rings, copper and Vintaj patina paint: Hobby Lobby. Liver of sulfur gel and Renisannce Wax: Fusion Beads. Wire: Ace Hardware. Chain: Yadana Beads. Polymer clay bead: Humblebeads.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Perfect Pairings :: Earth Shine Designs

Linda is a glass bead artist from the UK with her Earthshine Designs brand. When looking at this month's challenge painting, Miss Linda was drawn to the square shapes, the windows in this Paris scene. She set out to make glass headpins in those square shapes and made an ingenious chain effect with them! I like the gradation of colors around the necklace, with the bits of yellow for a punch of color. A simple, elegant design that could work for all different color schemes!

Featured Designer + Bead Artist :: Earthshine Designs

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 December 28th to get your pictures posted to the Pinterest boards for the creation of the
Monthly Challenge Recap post for December 30th.

TIP: If you upload your photo to pin it 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. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

11th Day of Christmas: Holiday Lighted Earrings

I was so excited to find these stand alone LED lights on Amazon.  I had only seen them on strings with a little battery before this.  I was doubly pleased when I noticed the little hanger built right into them.  I was sure they would be perfect for fitting inside some art beads I have by Margit Boehmer
Art Beads by Margit Boehmer

Once the lights arrived I was surprised by their large size.  Apparently I had not read the measurement part carefully!!  Have you ever done that?  So I had to come up  with a different plan.

I thought I would like to combine them with my newly fired ceramic fir tree charms. 
Ceramic Fir Tree Charms by Mary Harding Jewelry

I tired quite a few ideas around  hanging them from their built in loop but none of the ways I did it looked right to me.  What I really wanted to do was have the trees hanging from the bottom of the light so it would reflect nicely on the shiny ceramic surface.  Finally, I realized what I could do. I could drill a hole in the bottom of the light and drop in a head pin and make a loop for the tree to hang from.  And that is what I did.

1.  I took the light apart by unscrewing it and dumped out the insides which consists of 3 LED batteries, a circuit and an O ring. ( there is also a plastic wrap tube around the batteries but I did not put it back in when I reassembled the parts and they worked fine anyway.)

                                       Contents of a stand alone LED Light

2.  When I looked at the plastic tip of the light I saw that I could easily drill into it with my pin vise and a 1/16 inch drill bit. ( You could also use a 1/16 inch drill bit in a hex shank.)So I marked the spot and began drilling the hole by hand.  I was leery of using my dremel for fear it would be hard to hold onto since it was so small.  With a few turns of the drill bit I was able to make a divot and then with quite a few more turns I had a hole.  It was a small enough hole that my head pin did not drop through.

3.  Then I began the wrapped loop and added the fir tree charm before I closed it up. I had to make a fairly large loop to accommodate the pointed top of the charm.  I could have also made a much smaller loop and then added the tree with a jump ring.  

4.  Now you have your lighted fir tree earrings to wear for a Holiday occasion or just for fun anytime. The batteries in these lights don't last very long but you can control when the lights come on by turning the top back and forth.  But sometimes they come on anyway!! 

I wore mine for the first time when we visited my grandchildren for an early Christmas get together.  At dinner I was wearing them but had not turned the lights on yet.  Out of the blue my older grandson said I like your Christmas light earrings!!  I was so surprised that he had noticed them.  I asked how he knew they were lights and he said they were flashing!! 

With these basic directions, you can come up with all sorts of ideas for adding your own art beads and more!! Enjoy!!

Happy Holidays to all!!


Monday, December 21, 2015

Amuse the Muse - Tiny Beads with Rebecca of Songbead

Can you believe it - Christmas, 'the big day' for many of us, whatever our faith, is only 4 days away. FOUR DAYS. If you've got time to have a leisurely reading of this post, then hats off to you - I'm impressed! I have all my presents now (or nearly all) - just the wrapping, and a big supermarket shop to go. And so without further ado, over to the tiny beads...

First, here's a great example of just how useful a simple pair of teeny tiny lampwork spacers can be - here, my earrings were created with simple acrylic rounds (nice and light as well as fun!) which were sandwiched between some of Lorelei Eurto's tin bead caps. They were sweet as they were, but needed a little something extra to elevate them - and so I looked out a pair of our very own Julie's tiny spacer beads - 'weenies' - the most useful beads ever - and decorated the earwires with them. Perfect finishing touch!

Here are some more of these addictive tiny beads - what could you turn all of these into? 

Check out the absolutely ADORABLE tiny lampwork beads from The Glass Bunny...

...can you believe these guys?!!! Squeak!!!

These aren't art beads yet - but just imagine combining them with a little decoupage, paint, or even yarn - these could be turned into something really special. From Good Accessories 1.

I cannot resist a bird bead. Truly. Especially a tiny one! From Teal Water Designs. 

And who can resist this delightful explosion of colour? Not me. From Desert Bug Designs

And now for the BeadBlogger Links. Have a magical, wonderful, peaceful (if you can!) 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, December 20, 2015

10th Day of Christmas: Dancing Snowflake Knotted Bracelet

This is an easy knotted design that offers a playful element by alternating which side the beads are strung on before knotting the cords. 

Polymer clay snowflake
10mm ceramic round bead
8 8mm bronze plated hematite
11 matte crackle agate
2" copper headpin
8mm copper jump ring
40" green waxed linen cord 

1. Fold the linen in half, Start at the center an tie a knot, repeat on both sides of the first knot until you have an 1 1/2" long knotted center. (Make sure the knotted area easily slides over the 10mm but isn't too much larger). Make a loop with the knotted section of the cord and tie together. 

2. On one cord string an agate bead, pull the two cords together above the bead and tie a knot. String the next agate bead on the opposite cord and pull the two cords together above the bead and tie a knot. Repeat alternating which cord the bead is strung on and knot between each bead. Repeat with the other 9 agate beads. Repeat with the 9 hematite beads. 

3. Tie both cords together to form a larger knot. String on the ceramic bead, tie a knot with both cords. On each cord tie knots as in step one for a 1/2" on each cord, trim excess cord.

Resources: check your local bead store for stones or try Etsy. Ceramic bead: White Clover Kiln. Snowflake bead: Humblebeads. Jump ring and headpin: Yadana Beads. Waxed linen: Hobby Lobby or White Clover Kiln. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

9th Day of Christmas: Deck Your Lobes!

It's that perennial 'winterval' problem: how to make festive earrings that aren't too, er, festive. I know there are some who are happy to go for a splash of red, green and gold when celebrating on Christmas day or at a work's do. There is also the popular alternative of something more understated featuring symbols of the season - snowflakes, holly, stars.  But, what if you want something that is striking and (dare I say?) party-ready, while subtly seasonal, and suitable for year-round wear. That's a lot of boxes to tick! But the design I'm sharing today could be an answer. All you really need, aside from your art beads, is some short lengths of chain and some three-to-one connectors. There's a huge selection of the latter available out there - you can go as simple or as lavish as you like.

(l-r: The Paris Carousel; Finding Your Element; Legendary Beads)

You may well already have some in your stash. If you find the ones you have a little plain you could always try adding patina - to co-ordinate with the rest of the earring perhaps?

But what are we making? These...

As you can see, it's a relatively simple construction. I've grunged up my connectors which were some large vintage copper ones. But this is totally optional - you might prefer plain copper, for example. The only remaining consideration is what art what beads to use. Here I've used a pair of Linda Newnham's icicle-like, frosted lampwork headpins, topped with some spacers and tiny sparkly crystals. The size of connectors will determine how wide the central art bead(s) can be. You don't have to opt for long, thin focal beads. You could take some smaller art beads or charms and mix them with other beads to form stacks or columns in the centre. The chain and the centrepiece are all attached to the connector with 4-5mm jump rings. This first pair can serve here as a kind of blueprint. Once you have the basic idea you can be as elaborate as you like.

The connectors in this pair are some very unusual little vintage fairy/angel(?) figures that were linked together in a chain. There's a loop on each hand, but also another on the foot, from which I've hung a winter-y white Scorched Earth drop. I've added more vintage connectors at the bottom of the chain, wrapped round with some pearl-y seed beads, and I've hung a little faceted glass drop at the very bottom.

I think either of these pairs of earrings would be great for the holiday season, however you really could wear them all year round. Such earrings also make for great gifts: how much nicer to get someone something they can feel winter-y in, yet can be worn in all seasons!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,

Friday, December 18, 2015

8th Day of Christmas + 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!

This week's winner is Mary Morris.
You have won a JOY ornament from Michelle of Firefly Design Studio.

 Please contact Michelle to claim your prize!
Hello lovely art bead peeps!

I am pinch hitting for Miss Heather of Swoondimples today (you can read her Inside the Studio next week, on Christmas!). Since I didn't know that I was going to be doing this post until about 9:30 on Thursday after I got home from the Christmas concert (the most lovely rendition of Silent Night and Carol of the Bells by the chamber choir along with a stirring medley of the Nutcracker by the band - puts me right in the holiday spirit!) I had to quickly whip something up. Fortunately, I seem to thrive under the last minute pressure. As luck would have it, I also realized in that moment of yes that I needed to also make earrings for my monthly We're All Ears challenge on the Earrings Everyday blog. It is my party that I host each month (would love to have you join in!), so I had to find a way to roll this all together.

For the We're All Ears theme for December I came up with the Leftovers Transformation challenge. The idea is that we all have that craft table littered with the remains of projects past, or the craftermath, as I call it. What better time than now to do something with those! Sometimes limiting yourself to just a few materials and giving yourself a very tight time frame can really kick things into high gear. I figured that what would work for the Earrings Everyday blog would work for this post as well.

The first step to the Leftovers Transformation Challenge is to take a picture of what you are working with. So here are a few pictures of the craftastrophe that is my studio..... please don't laugh! I actually work in about a 6" square space (and you can't see the floor behind this table is piled up.... but there are paths to walk in!).

As I was going through my trays and bins, I came across two bean beads from Heather Millican of Swoondimples, that I had her make in late spring/early summer when she was doing the Awareness Words hop. I had her put the word "remember" on these purple beads for Alzheimers' and intended to make something for my sister and I to wear. Mom lives in a facility not too far away, and I do get to see her, but she really doesn't have any words, so it is hard to figure out what she is thinking.

When it comes to the holidays it is a bit sad for me as my mom is in the latter stages of this terrible disease. The holidays are always filled with a lot of memories and traditions and it has been years since I could share those with her. But my sister and I are doing our best to keep those memories alive and continue the traditions that my mom started with us so long ago. Like baking my mom's chocolate lace cookies and using her spritz cookie maker... giving an ornament to each kid so that when they leave home they will have a whole set of ornaments to start out... putting an orange and a walnut in the toe of each stocking... I inherited the gold glass ball garland from my dad after last Christmas. This was my grandmother's decoration. I can vividly recall watching the adults gingerly place this on her tree each year. When I was putting these fragile strands on each branch, it was like dressing up in my grandmother's costume jewelry (I also inherited her jewelry box and some of her costume jewelry when I was 18). This is a special old memory and new tradition that I will be carrying on.

My sister Kelly celebrates her birthday on January 3rd and even though we don't really give each other many gifts for Christmas (we focus on the kids more), I do try to make her birthday something special. So I thought I would make something just for her. Oddly enough, my sister doesn't have that much of my jewelry. Her tastes tend to be very simple. So I might be really pushing her boundaries with this wackadoodle style, but I think that she will appreciate it.

This is a pretty old picture of us... from about 2006... I was so much younger and thinner with way shorter hair... Kelly (on the left), well, she hasn't changed all that much and looks pretty much the same!
I like making necklaces with orphan beads. My studio is overflowing with them! I actually just bought two sets of orphan beads from two different glass artists from overseas stating that I never met an orphan I didn't like. I much prefer the challenge of making different beads in different mediums work together. I call this style a "this and that" because it is a little bit of this and a little bit of that!

To make your own "This & That" necklace...

assorted art beads with a color theme in mind (try to find ones that are made from different materials)
beading wire (about 8" or more if you are going to bead the entire thing)
crimp tubes
spacer beads
seed beads (optional)
chain (about 10-12")

1::String a combination of art beads separated by smaller spacers onto the beading wire (use a bead stopper on the end so they don't fall off). You might need to pull them on and off until you reach the right balance for the weight of some beads, and color placement. Make sure that it will hang correctly (i.e., don't put the heaviest beads to one side!).
2::Separate the chain links in half.
3::On one end, string a crimp tube and then about 7-9 seed beads (to cover the wire). Crimp the wire securely.
4::Repeat step 3 for the other side.
5::Attach a clasp.

I had fun combing through my art bead stash for this necklace. I pulled all different shades of purples for Alzheimer's and in a variety of mediums and shapes. In addition to Swoondimples, I used glass from Cathie Roberts, a beaded bead from Malin de Koning, an enamel filigree and a Facet Effects bead (I made both). I know there are at least two other glass beads, but I am not sure who made them - the swirly purple and the dottie blue/lilac/lime. (Speak up if you know and I would love to give credit!). I added some funky black gunmetal chain links to the back. That way if I need to adjust it to fit her, it will be a simple thing to do.

I also made a pair of earrings as part of the Leftover Transformation Challenge. If you would like to see what I made to complement this necklace, head over to the Earrings Everyday blog. (P.S. I am also having a giveaway over on the Earrings Everyday blog...if you join in the fun and create some earrings to share in the hop! It is not too late to play along... you have one week to join in. Check it out!)

I have a $25 gift certificate to give away to one lucky reader for answering this question....
What is your favorite holiday memory?

I wish you many fond memories of this holiday season spent with those that you love carrying on those time-honored traditions and making new ones!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

7th Day of Christmas : Ode to Joy!

Welcome to the 7th day of Christmas! I've been so enjoying all the lovely projects that have been shared over the last couple of weeks as part of this 12 Days of Christmas series! It's a great idea to get those creative wheels turning in time for handmade holiday gifts - the best kind of gift there is!

My project is very basic, but it's a great way to show off a treasured art bead. Sometimes you don't need much! For anyone with any kind of skill in working with metal, this project will be child's play - but for those like me who are just starting to learn some basic skills, it's a great way to take them for a spin!

In my beginners' silversmithing class, the first thing we tackled was sawing simple shapes out of metal. I'm working on a pair of earrings in my class, but I like the idea of practicing what I'm learning at home too - as much as I can with the tools I have acquired so far.

I do have all the necessities to complete a simple sawing project, so I had the idea to make some copper and brass snowflake ornaments for my family for Christmas. Snowflake patterns - like the ones you make by folding and cutting paper - are perfect for sawing and piercing, because the design elements are all connected.

I've been using free snowflake pattern templates that can be readily found all over the internet (a Pinterest search for 'free paper snowflake patterns' turns up lots of good stuff!) and enlarging/reducing them on our printer to get just the right size for each design.

I have a pile of ornaments in various stages of completion - most of them cut out, waiting for filing and sanding and some beautiful accents to bring them to life! I have big ideas, of course, and can't wait to find the perfect finishing touches for each one:

As for finishing touches, there are so many possibilities! This is a great time of year to pick up beautiful trimmings in the shops - I found some lovely red velvet ribbon, and a big ball of sparkly string (for Canadians - at Winners) the other day:

My husband and I frequent the thrift shops around the city at this time of year, adding some new finds to our collection of vintage Christmas decorations and lights, but I always swing by the jewelry section to see if I can dig up any bead treasures.

These vintage lucite beads are going to be amazing dangling from the bottom of some of the snowflakes!

And of course, I have a pretty wide selection of art beads that I've been hoarding for just such an occasion - including these really funky beaded beads by Debra Schwartz of DatzKatz Designs that are almost like snowflakes themselves (more awesome vintage finds there too!):

In the middle of the snowflake-a-thon, I realized that a very close friend of mine has a birthday coming up next week, and I wanted to design a special ornament for her, putting all that snowflake sawing practice to good use.

She loves Christmas, and her middle name is 'Joy' (perfect, right?) so I designed a cutout to showcase an art bead I bought a few weeks ago with this project in mind - representing Karen's favorite animal (stay tuned...)

To make an ornament like this, you'll need some very, very basic metalsmithing equipment:

- a jeweler's saw frame and blades (I used 3/0)
- a table and bench pin
- small drill bit and drill / rotary tool
- protective eyewear
- pencil and eraser
- adhesive labels (or plain paper and a glue stick)
- sheet metal - I've been using 18 ga copper and brass
- small files
- abrasive paper or cloth
- decorative elements - art beads, vintage beads, chain, jump rings, string, ribbon

STEP 1: draw your design and affix it to the metal sheet

To begin, decide on your design, draw it out with nice, clearly defined lines, and transfer to adhesive paper. You can also use plain paper and a glue stick to adhere it to the metal. Place it where you want it, on your sheet:

STEP 2: saw the outside of the design

I won't get into technical details of sawing and piercing metal - I'm certainly no expert! Plus, it's much better explained in a video format. If you've never used a jeweler's saw before, there are tons of great videos available on YouTube that start with the VERY basics. I liked this one a lot (by Kate Richbourg for Sawing Metal.

It took me a bit of doing in the beginning, but once you get the hang of it, it's fun, easy, and relaxing. I could happily saw away for hours and hours, listening to some good Christmas music!

STEP 3: pierce (drill) holes and cut out the interior elements of the design

When you've got the outside of your shape cut out, if there is negative space in your design you'll want to drill a hole in each of those shapes. You'll thread your saw blade through those to get at the interior shapes you want to cut out.

I used my electric Dremel tool for this - the same one I use to clean the holes in my glass beads (and a 1 mm drill bit). If you have a big block of wood that you can place under the metal as you're drilling, or you don't mind drilling into your bench pin, that's a good idea - I couldn't do that, so I managed with a couple of scraps of wood and a plastic cutting board. And use two hands, obviously! My other hand was holding the camera.

Don't forget your protective eyewear!

Once the holes are drilled, you can thread your saw blade through and continue sawing out the pieces of metal that you want to get rid of:

STEP 4: file and sand the edges and flat surfaces

Now that you've cut your piece out, the next step is cleaning up the edges. The better your sawing technique, the easier it will be, of course! I used a set of small needle files to file the edges of the design, followed by smoothing with 220 grit abrasive paper. Then, I sanded the flat surfaces, front and back.

In this case, I only used the coarsest emery paper I had (220 grit), since I actually quite like the satiny, scratchy finish it leaves. But if you prefer a smoother, more reflective surface, you can finish the edges and the flat surfaces with progressively finer grits of paper / cloth (ie. 400, 600, 1200), like the smaller squares you see in this photo:

STEP 5: finish and embellish - the fun part!

The possibilities are endless! Use that ribbon and twine, dig through your bead stash, go hunting for vintage treasures... Drill holes for hanging, do some stringing and knotting, wire wrapping, add some jump rings or chain... 

This is a great chance to use up bits and bobs. Since it's not a wearable piece, it's also fun to use beads you really love, that may not fit your usual 'style' of jewelry making. When it comes to holiday ornaments, all bets are off. Do you make tribal, or rustic, or primitive jewelry? Here's your chance to go for the glitter and google-y eyes. The cuter and sparklier the better!

On my copper 'Joy' ornament, I added some chain for hanging (attached with jump rings I threaded through holes drilled at the top of the j and the y), some of that beautiful red velvet ribbon for a bow up top, and as the perfect finishing touch....

An art bead, of course!

My friend has a beloved pet bunny named Wendell, so when I saw this absolutely adorable polymer clay bunny charm by Leah Curtis of Beady Eyed Bunny, that was the ONE!

I love the idea of creating something special as a gift that fits the recipient in a way that only handmade can. And what a perfect showcase for an equally special bead.

Now I just have 8 snowflake ornaments to file and sand and accessorize in the next 7 days. 

No problem ;)

I hope your holiday season has been magical so far - and wishing you all good things as we approach the New Year.

Until next time...


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Julie is a glass beadmaker with a passion for building community and inspiring conversation around her writing. Her best work comes from that magical place where nature meets creative flow. She is fascinated by all things weird and wonderful. You will find her hanging out most days in her Uglibeads Facebook group or on Instagram, and you're invited to join in the adventure by signing up for her weekly email newsletter.