Tuesday 22 July 2014

Birds and Roses

Yesterday it was the sea; today, it's more country gardens and treetops. 

I am allergic to quite of lot of what you may find in both country gardens and indeed, some trees(!) - but still, who can resist their quiet loveliness on a warm summer's day? Roses to the front and birds overhead....a rug on the lawn and a picnic spread in front, and perhaps even a glass of something sparkling to one side. I am ready for one of those Summer days, aren't you? 

Monday 21 July 2014

A new ocean piece

I have written here and here about how inspired I am by the sea, the ocean-side and water in general...the sea calls to me on an almost-daily basis. So it should come as no surprise that I couldn't resist this gorgeous bead set from Heather Millican of Swoondimples:

They read in full:

"A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor."

Very true. 

Here's what they became....inspired by my recent Whale Watching bracelet; you may be able to tell...

Thursday 17 July 2014

Michaels Beading Challenge Blog Hop Reveal - 1 day late!

So, I'm a day late. If you knew the weekend I'd just have, I am sure you'd forgive me, but I will spare you the details for now - and rather, continue with the jewellery. That's what you're here for - not tales of almost-dying pets, smashed in faces and possibly stolen cars.....right?

When I saw that Lorelei and Heather Humblebeads were organising a blog challenge, I knew I wanted to join in if I could. They had selected some beads from Michaels, which is a craft chain based in North America. I.E., none in the UK and Europe! Thankfully, I have some rather super friends in America, and when I asked my particularly super friend Erin if she would be able to pick up the beads for me when she was getting some for herself, she very, very kindly obliged. 

The challenge beads

I am so behind with everything because of the weekend (see above...), but I felt that having asked Erin to go to the trouble of buying these for me, I really had to give myself the extra push to take part. So last night, I sat down at 9pm and began. 

 I originally started on a chunky multi-strand bracelet.....but that didn't quite work. I have plans to rework it because I like the idea of it (it was the particular large toggle clasp I'd selected that threw the spanner in the works), but I decided to go for something a little simpler for now. 

I threw in a Bo Hulley leaf clasp - usually I make my own hook clasps to go with these, but I didn't have any to hand and so simply combined it with a Vintaj hook. 

Somehow I felt that this palette needed some orange in it for my designs, as you can see continued on in this second bracelet...

I love how the ceramic rounds (Erin picked me out a blue shade rather than the green ones in the picture above, and I think they are my favourite beads from the selection!) look with the pressed glass orange flower caps. 

This bracelet then needed some earrings to match:

On second thoughts, I think the flower tiles actually tie for favourite with the ceramic rounds. I LOVE these beads, although I found them quite tricky to think of ways to use them. I am always challenged by rectangles and squares...

Along with my Michaels beads, the lovely Erin (did I mention what a fantastic lady she is?) sent me one of her own handmade 'Simple Truths' pendants; a colourful flag pendant in the perfect palette. On the reverse it says:

'not all who wander are lost'. 

I'm not sure if Erin chose these words especially for me, but they are particularly apt right now, as a week today (can it really be only a WEEK away?) we move over to Edinburgh, our second big move in 12 months. 

My first thought for this was that I wanted to create some kind of colourful bunting necklace with it, but alas, I had no other triangle beads in my stash. Impossible though that seems, given the size of it...! 

I had, however, picked up some cool wooden frames in Dublin this past weekend (did I mention how disastrous it was..?) Well, one of the less disastrous points was stumbling across a bead shop on the Liffey. It looked like your every day bead shop at first (I've been in a few...) but they had some really interesting bits and bobs that I haven't seen before on closer inspection. Including some cool wooden frame sets, as I said. I thought perhaps they could hang down like triangles, but of course they didn't want to play ball.....but I am pretty pleased how they wanted to hang instead! 

I didn't want Erin's Simple Truth to look too wee compared with the frames, so I decided that a piece of decorative chain hanging beneath would do the trick - somehow, the leaves tied in with my original bunting idea.

I realised that this design, although in my mind linked to the challenge palette, didn't contain any of the Michaels beads! So I added a couple on. Did you spot them?!

Last, and quite possibly least(!), I realised I had used some of all the beads apart from the blue/gold glass window beads. Another sweet and simple pair of earrings with my favourite flower tiles. 

So what do you think? Did I pull it out the bag? I have a list of 'to-dos' as long as my arms and my legs put together for today, but I wanted to share these with you so that I wasn't TOO late for the blog hop. Hoping to get these pieces into my etsy shop today, but do comment is you see any that float your boat. 

If you want to see what other folk created with the same beads, hop over to Heather's blog to see the list. Thanks to Heather, Lorelei and especially Erin for organising and enabling me to take part!

Sunday 13 July 2014

.....and now for the earrings...!

Did you see yesterday's post on these vintage nailhead beads? Scroll down to check out how I cleaned up these pretty red flowers, ready for action. I've combined them with vintage brass charms, matte kingfisher green glass seed beads and handmade copper earwires. The nailhead beads present a bit of a challenge because a) they have two holes and b) they are very light and therefore delicate. I imagine that I will therefore be using most of my stash of these in earrings, but I forsee a very delicate and dainty bracelet in their future also. 

These will be heading to my etsy shop on Monday, but do comment if you would like them! £16 and for my lovely blog readers, I am offering free worldwide shipping. 

Saturday 12 July 2014

Vintage beads - cleaning up!

One of the really fantastic/dangerous things about working with beads is that there are just so many of them - so many shapes, materials, sizes to choose from. Not only that, but there are beads made yesterday all the way back to pretty much the beginning of human civilisation! There is a ridiculous and sometimes overwhelming amount of choice. 

I usually work with contemporary beads, be they glass, gemstones, pearls or handmade, but recently, I have had a bit of a 'thing' for vintage beads. I have turned into one of those ebay stalkers, trawling through auctions, scrolling through pages and pages of vintage glass on etsy....it does make for rather a pleasant afternoon, if an expensive one too! 

Last week, an order of vintage glass beads arrived with me from America. The beads are from Japan, the Czech republic and Germany, and range from the early 1900s to about the 1960s. Gosh, I am thrilled with them! It was all I could do not to place another order with the supplier the very same day, but with an impending move and all funds going towards that, I held back - for now...Although they were all unused, due to the age of them, some of them were just a little dusty - nothing terrible, they just needed a wee bit of a clean. I thought I'd take you through that process here, and give you a peek into how to care for these precious beads.

Here are some of the beautiful beads that arrived with me. Glass nailhead (traditionally for embroidery) beads, from the Czech republic, still on their original strands. These date back to the 1920s. 

You can see the rather deep detailing the moulds have given these lovely beads, not surprising that they had picked up a little dust over the last almost 100 years. They are a really delicious shade of red - a deep crimson, with just the slightest hint of pink to them.

Although the beads are red glass throughout (rather than coated), I wanted to do a test wash of just a few first of all, to make sure they wouldn't react badly with the mild soapy water that I had made up for them. I would always recommend doing this first - nothing worse than giving them all a dunk and discovering that your precious vintage beads don't like what you're dunking them in! I used a wee scoosh of mild hand soap in a shallow tin for these.

As the main reason my beads were a little grubby (other than being almost 100 years old!) is their deep moulded impressions, I needed something that could get into all the crevices. A soft, clean toothbrush is the perfect tool for helping out with this. I just used the top white section of the brush head here, and it worked a treat.

I scrubbed each bead gently after their initial water dunk, and then put them back into the mild soapy water. As the beads weren't very dirty to start off with, I just used the same water to put them back in after their quick and gentle scrub, but if your beads were more dirty, you might want to have another tin of soapy water to put the beads into afterwards, and another tub of water for rinsing your toothbrush. You could then repeat the process if necessary.

Once they were all nice and clean, I transferred them into another wee bowl filled with clean water, to rinse off any residual soap. 

...and then onto some kitchen towel in the sunshine to dry off.

Here are the beads - clean and dry, and ready to be worked with! Don't they look lovely? Come back tomorrow to see what some of these have turned into...

Rebecca is a Scottish jewellery designer, currently living in Belfast, Northern Ireland. You can read more about her and her work at her blog, songbeads.blogspot.com and see more of her jewellery at songbead.etsy.com. She also has a supplies shop at thecuriousbeadshop.etsy.com.

Friday 11 July 2014

Facebook Songbead Giveaway!

Are you on Facebook? Are you a Songbead 'liker' over there? If you're not, it might be the time to hop over to my page and join in! I am having a big giveaway there when I reach 3000 likes.....it's a big goal but I'm aiming high! 

If you're not on Facebook (which I totally understand - it's not for everyone), then don't worry - I will be having other giveaways here and via my newsletter. Click on the link to sign up. Don't worry, I won't spam you with loads of emails - and there's a special discount code when you sign up too.....and you'll be the first in the know about secret sales and promotions!

Thursday 10 July 2014

Art Bead Scene - The Mermaid

The Little Mermaid (At the mere sight of the bright liquid they drew back in terror) signed and dated 'Edmund Dulac 11' (lower right) and with inscription 'At the mere sight of the bright liquid...they drew back in terror' 
This illustration was one of at least 28 prepared by Dulac for the 1911 Edition of Stories from Hans Andersen and, in this case, it was one of those accompanying the tale of "The Mermaid". It is associated with the following text:
'If the polyps should seize you, when you go back through my wood,' said the witch, 'just drop a single drop of this liquid on them, and their arms and fingers will burst into a thousand pieces.' But the little mermaid had no need to do this, for at the mere sight of the bright liquid, which sparkled in her hand like a shining star, they drew back in terror. So she soon got past the wood, the bog, and the eddying whirlpools.

Welcome to a mini blog hop featuring certain editors of Art Bead Scene's take on this month's challenge piece. We're hoping to excite your imagination and encourage you to join in with us! 

First, let's consider the inspiration piece. I absolutely love this illustration, but I found it hugely challenging to create from. I think the reasons for this are 1) this huge colour palette used here and 2) the densely detailed pictorial nature of this piece of art. You can really tell that along with watercolours, Dulac has used pen and ink in this illustration. It's gorgeous - but somehow, I didn't quite know where to begin with it. 

Of course, I could have 'just' focused on the colour scheme. But there are just SO many colours here, even that left me feeling a little panicked! I was also keen to get a slightly watery feel to whatever I created. 

I had a whole other necklace finished and ready for photographing, and I could have shared it here, as it looked lovely laid out....but very annoyingly, it just wouldn't hang right once it was 'on'. The clasp kept flipping over and some of the beads kept swivelling around too....We've all been there, I know, but this doesn't lessen the annoyance! Here's a peek at what could have been:

I took the rather painful decision to take it apart and begin again. Glad I did however! Here's what I came up with:

The Mermaid (available on etsy)

Pretty simple at the end of the day! I am glad I was able to pare the inspiration down mentally. I chose not step AWAY from the detail, and be inspired by the bleeding colours and the watery, frondy feel. Yes, I know the chain has leaves to it and could be seen as Autumnal, but the feel of it seemed reminiscent of underwater plants - fronds that sway beneath the salty waves. 

It really started when I spotted this long-hoarded Round Rabbit porcelain pendant, which had just the perfect bleeding of colour to it:

 Add to that rustic freshwater pearls from Smitten Beads and a single matte glazed ceramic round from Kylie Parry and you have my finished necklace. 

The Mermaid (available on etsy)

If you would like to create something based on this month's (or any month's, for that matter!) challenge, then here are the Challenge Guidelines. Each month, we have at least 2 sponsors from whom you can win prizes for entering. There are some really awesome prizes on offer this month (and every month)! Have a look at what you could win by entering. I hope you will join us!

Rebecca is a Scottish jewellery designer, currently living in Belfast, Northern Ireland. You can read more about her and her work at her blog, songbeads.blogspot.com and see more of her jewellery at songbead.etsy.com. She also has a supplies shop at thecuriousbeadshop.etsy.com.

Wednesday 9 July 2014

A New Venture - Craftsy

A couple of days ago, I wrote about my designs in print, and my work as an educator and teacher. Another exciting development to this side of my work, is that I have recently joined the team over at Craftsy

I am so proud and humbled to be part of this incredible organisation. The amount of information they put out there and share on the web is just phenomenal - and if you're not familiar with them already, I encourage you to hop over and take a look through their pages. They publish multiple blog posts a day full of free tips, tricks, tutorials and more, in many craft disciplines. They also have a series of classes which you can purchase, some of which I am going to review for you here soon. You can follow them on Facebook too. 

I've only written a few posts for them so far, partly because I'm still learning the ropes with their beautiful-but-challenging-to-a-newbie-like-myself Wordpress format. I also have extra wee challenges, like remembering to use American spellings! But I have got started with them over the past few weeks, and have a few posts in the offing. So far I have three posts published - and you can check them out below:

How to make your own wire findings - a tutorial and tips

Working with wire in jewelry - a quick primer
Peyote stitch beading - a tutorial for getting started 

What subjects/classes would you like to see me tackle on Craftsy? 

Tuesday 8 July 2014

Owls, Roses and Art Beads

Almost all of my designs feature handmade beads in one material or another. Handmade beads, or 'Art Beads' as they are known, are just what they sound like - tiny little pieces of 3d art, ready to be used by jewellery artists and included within our work. I always think of this as a silent collaboration between myself and the bead artist(s) and it really is a tremendous privilege to work with handmade components on an almost daily basis. (Oh, and if you are passionate about handmade and beads too, you will want to check out Art Bead Scene for more scoop on artisan-made beads and jewellery the features them. I am one of the editors over there and post for them at least once a week.)

The longer that one works with these miniature pieces of art, the more one learns to recognise which beads work with one's style. Sometimes when I am trawling through etsy (it's a hard life, but somebody's got to do it!) searching for new art beads, I will spot certain beads that I love but that I don't necessarily feel would work within my jewellery. Sometimes I take a leap of faith and buy them anyway, and edge myself out of my comfort zone - it's good to push yourself creatively after all -  but sometimes you just know that certain art beads are not meant for you. 

You also get to know that there are certain art bead artists that you have a real affinity with. There are several bead artists who really speak to me, and I will no doubt blog about more of them in the future....but vying for the number one spot must be the extraordinarily talented Kylie Parry. Her quirky animals and pictorial beads are absolutely the perfect match for my narrative, story-telling jewellery. 

Some of Kylie's beautiful beads

Here, I have paired one of her owls with another of my favourite bead artists, Leah Curtis of Beady Eyed Bunny. Poor old Leah recently had the misfortune to have to make me thirty rose beads as a custom order - I'm sure she never wants to make a rose bead again now! 

Some of the beautiful roses that Leah custom-made for me.

But aren't they just the perfect match for my own antiqued copper deco rose clasp? 

Country Garden set

I don't always make matching sets of jewellery, but I had three roses in this lovely pale blue, and after I'd made the bracelet, the other two were just crying out to be earrings. Wouldn't you agree?

Country Garden Earrings

It's hard to see there, but I've added some handmade oxidised sterling silver earwires to these. The steely silver is perfect with the cool blue.

Country Garden bracelet

And the bracelet....well, anything with one of Kylie's owls is a winner for me, but I am very pleased with the warm rust, soft topaz and sky blue. A soft, soothing colour palette, perfect for the country garden theme. Definitely an English garden I feel, perhaps in spring before all the plants are out in full bloom, and the earth is rich and ripe.

And what could be cuter than this wee face? 

T'wit T'woo!

Monday 7 July 2014

Which Earring Type Are You?

I think most women who wear earrings fall into two distinct types. Those who like to wear long, swooshy, shoulder-scraping (I pinched that phrase from Claire!), wind-chime-esque highly dramatic ear-chandeliers, and those who prefer sweet, dainty, discreet and delicate ear-decor. 

I definitely fall into the former category, but I know many people who don't. With this in mind, I always try and vary the earrings I design to be a good mixture of both. 

One of my 'problems' with the latter category of sweet and delicate earrings is that often this can translate to boring. Safe. Uninteresting. Middle-of-the-road. 'Do you like my distinctly-average, rather dull earrings?'  said nobody, ever. 

They don't have to be dull is the truth of the matter. Is there anything more exquisitely lovely than a beautifully executed sterling silver stud? I may not choose to wear them myself for the most part, but I can appreciate their loveliness. My Mum, also an earring fanatic, tends towards the simpler style, and has a beautiful selection of stud earrings. Here are some I scoured from online, proving how gorgeous a simple stud can be. 

AliBali Jewellery

Alison Moore Designs
Ebba Goring (ok, these are a wee bit fancier, but they are still in the small, delicate and dainty category, and still studs!)

Until I get settled in a new abode and can get a silver-smithing station set up (been on the to-do list for, oh, only two years now...), studs are pretty much out for me. I don't trust glue-on flat-backs - they work for some people, but I just can never quite put my faith in ones I make myself in this way. Instead, I have been working on a line of sweet, dainty and definitely not dull earrings for Songbead. 

Featuring a simple glass round, and embellished with fine-silver and golden-brass. 

Now, I know that some people see glass as a poor relation to gemstones. I real shame, I think - they are simply very different materials, and both extremely beautiful in their own way. I love the history within the glass industry (and of beads in general of course), particularly that of the glass bead industry of the Czech republic. Even though most of the Czech glass I use within my designs is contemporary, many of the moulds used are not, and so they carry with them a sense of timelessness and nostalgia. Sometimes, even the glass used itself can be an 'old lot', meaning that although the bead has only just been made, the glass and the mould that created it have been around for a lot longer. 

I have added an extra something special to these by embellishing the patina-gold brass earwires with faceted brass beads and oxidised fine-silver wire. These add a tiny trail of beads connecting the point where the earring passes through your ears, down to the pretty mint and gold pressed glass rondelle. Sweet and simple, but definitely special - and a little bit different. 

Sunday 6 July 2014

Why Did The Dragon Fly?

Recently, I was lucky enough to be invited to exhibit at the Scottish Arts Club - an organisation based within a beautiful Georgian townhouse in Edinburgh. It really is an exquisite space - you can have a look at photos over on their website, but I recommend if you are in Edinburgh and are able, do arrange a visit and have a look around. They have exhibitions on which change on a monthly basis, and these are open to the public during the day - a perfect excuse to take in some art, and a stunning building to boot. I have attended a few events here as a guest, and it's always a treat to take in beautiful art in equally beautiful surroundings.

Of course, I had to get myself and my jewellery over to the Scottish Arts Club from here in Belfast! One thing that has been particularly challenging about going to and fro between Northern Ireland and Britain over the past few months has been travelling by plane. Yes, it really is fairly quick and easy to get to and from the airport (apart from the time when my airport shuttle bus broke down and I had to buy another plane ticket...), the flights are so quick that you're barely up but you're down, and the prices are not too bad as long as you book in advance. But, preparation for going anywhere requires so much more thought than driving, or even getting a train. I'm sure you can imagine, going to do a jewellery event you need not only all the jewellery you are going to put on display (and more in reserve of course) but props, cloths and supplies - at the very least, tools and basic essentials for making alterations etc. 

For the Scottish Arts Club exhibition, I didn't also have a clear idea in my head of exactly what the space would look like, or how it would be divided up, so I was keen to give myself options of what to put into the cabinet that was my space. This means packing up and preparing is even more tricky, and decisive is not exactly my middle name....Let's just say that over the past year I have become extremely grateful that EasyJet has no weight allowance on their hand luggage! Tools and clothes in the hold, and jewellery, heavy beads and metal findings with me in the cabin. 

I knew my jewellery would be displayed in a tall, slim cabinet and divided up into shelves, and I wanted each section to have a relatively cohesive and harmonious feel, without being too 'matchy-matchy', if you know what I mean! Of course, being me, this meant I had to make a few special pieces just for the event, in the few days before I set up. Nothing like making a rod for your own back!

I wanted to base each section around a 'show-stopper' necklace, and the weekend before set up, I found I needed to come up with one more for the display to be complete. I wanted something special, a little bit different, and wanted to push myself to make something that would really showcase me as a designer, whilst pushing myself just that little bit further....

Here's the result of that 'push' ~ 
Why Did the Dragon Fly?

Did I manage it, do you think? I must admit to being quietly very pleased with this necklace. When you are a mixed-media bead artist such as myself, you do tend towards collecting and hoarding tendencies.....both not bad tendencies, as long as they are kept in check! 
Why Did the Dragon Fly?

For some fortuitous reason, I had brought along a pendant I had long been hoarding saving for the right project - a beautiful porcelain dragonfly wing from Round Rabbit. I also had several of my own handwoven {song}beads in a gorgeous plummy purple, and had acquired some extremely unusual vintage filigree brass rounds, which had developed a delicious natural patina over time.  Add to these a handmade copper daisy clasp, and some of my traditional Czech pressed glass, and you have this pretty special necklace - Why Did the Dragon Fly

Why Did the Dragon Fly?

Of course, I always strive to make my jewellery as good as I possibly can - whether I'm designing large and intricate pieces, or simple, everyday ones. But sometimes, everything just comes together in a way that feels very special....and this necklace is one of those times. I love the idea of someone wearing this pictorial, narrative piece, with the dragonfly in profile, drawn to the pretty pansy blossoms. The dragonfly pendant seems to perfectly, motionlessly  hovering, smelling the sweet flowers....the necklace tells the story of a hazy summer's day with its soft greens, creams and warm purples. 

Here are a few pictures of it - and more of my jewellery! - in situ, in the exhibition at the Scottish Arts Club. 


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