Sunday, March 25, 2012

Felted Beads

Last week, I decided to make some felted beads from alpaca wool that my sister-in-law Lindsay gave me. She and her husband raise Huacaya alpacas on their farm, Dutch Hollow Acres, in upstate New York. Lindsay showed me how to create felted wool beads two summers ago while we were vacationing in the Adirondack Mountains. I was inspired to make more of these beads after reading Lorelei's blog post two weeks ago.

To create some of your own felted beads you will need the following:

  • alpaca wool, dyed various colors (Lindsay has a few bags with a variety of colors for sale at $5 each)
  • dish soap (I used Caldrea natural soap in plum+nutmeg for it's super yummy scent)
  • water
  • a tray for the soap and water
  • a dish towel (to dry up any water that drips outside of the tray)
  • some good music or a friend (each bead takes about 15-20 minutes to create and time goes by very slowly without either)

Start with a small chunk of fiber (about enough to fit in your palm). Dip it in the soapy water so it is thoroughly saturated. Then very gently and slowly, roll it in a circular motion between your palms until a ball forms. Add small amounts of soap and water to the ball as needed. Keep rolling...and rolling...

These were my results a few hours later! Many thanks to Lindsay for teaching me a new crafty skill and Lorelei for inspiring me!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Inspired by...Bead Soup!

Welcome to the fifth Bead Soup Block Party, hosted by the super-amazing Lori Anderson! This time around, I was paired up with the uber talented Karyn Lewis Bonfiglio of Plus Size Bangles. She is an illustrator, writer and jewelry designer. I told ya she was uber talented!

Here is a peak at what Karyn sent me...

raw brass sunflower
raw brass leaves 
carnelian calla lily beads
coral colored Swarovski pearls
tagua nut pendant
red bronze leaf hook clasp
orange colored wood ring
carved wood beads
8mm mahogany agate beads

I view each of the blog challenges that I sign up for as an opportunity to try something new. After all, the idea is to work outside of your comfort zone. I wanted to work from the heart, all while trying new design techniques. I envisioned creating a collar that opens in the front.

Here is my result...

I knew that I wanted to place leaves at each end of the collar, making that area the focal point. I formed the collar from 4mm wide aluminum. It was too soft to hold it's own, so I wrapped wire around it, all while adding in the leaves, beads and silver spacers. From the left, I started with the two small brass leaves, organic shaped silver spacers, then added in the carved wood beads, following with the agate beads and finishing with tiger eye pattern Czech crystals from my own bead collection. I finished with another one of the brass leaves Karyn sent me.

I felt the design was missing that oomph I was envisioning. I looked through my leaf collection (I have a bit of a leaf obsession) and found two larger brass leaves and a Vintaj brass leaf. I wire wrapped those elements in, sat back and took a deep breath. It was just what the design needed!

This is the first time I have ever created anything like this. It is also my first attempt at lengthy wire wrapping (almost 8 yards)!

I then created dangle earrings to match the necklace. I wanted to keep the design simple and modern.

My next plan was to create a bold accessory with the brass sunflower. I thought about making it the focal of a necklace but then realized that the best way to showcase it's beauty and boldness was to create a bracelet. I envisioned a cuff. Again, I was venturing into uncharted territory as I have never designed a cuff bracelet before.

I started with a 1/2" wide piece of raw brass that I purchased last summer at Old Forge Hardware during my annual Adirondack Mountain vacation (I absolutely love this store). I textured it with a ball peen hammer, then shaped it with a bracelet mandrel I recently purchased from Rio Grande.

My dilemma was how the heck was I going to attach the sunflower! I don't have any metalsmithing experience with brass, so that was out. I decided the best way to attach the two was via cold connection, aka rivets. I hammered the top of the rivets to help them blend in with the hammered pattern of the flower.

I wanted this piece to work in with the necklace and earrings that I created, so I decided to add some silver wire near the edges of the bracelet. It also added some weight to the ends, balancing out the heaviness of the sunflower.

So I had incorporated the focals and beads into designs, but had not yet made use of the gorgeous red bronze leaf clasp Karyn sent me. I knew that I wanted it to be the focal point of the design. I played around with some of the chain I recently ordered from Best Beads, with an idea to link in some of the o-rings. I acquired inspiration from Chain Style, a really wonderful book focusing on designing with chain.

This is the result...

And last but in no way least, I wanted to create a piece with the beautiful coral colored Swarovski pearls. The color reminds me of a tropical island or fruity rum drink (either one makes me smile)! I decided to create a dangle style bracelet as they are my favorite bracelets to wear in warmer weather...

This has been a creatively rewarding journey for me! Thank you for joining me.

Please visit the other participants, I know you will be inspired!...

Hostess, Lori Anderson

Special Book Sneak Peeks, Cindy Wimmer
1.  Adlinah Kamsir (Singapore) and Hajer Waheed (Kingdom of Bahrain)
2. Adrienn Lukacs (Hungary) and Agata Grygiel (Poland)
3.  Agi Kiss (Hungary) and Carolien Muller-Genger (the Netherlands)
4.  Agnes Asztalos (Hungary) and B.R. Kuhlman
7.  Alicia Marinache (Canada) and Dita Basu
15.  Bonnie Coursolle (Canada) and Fay Wolfenden (Canada)
16.  Carmel McGinley (Australia) and Tracy Stillman (Australia)

21.  Cheryl Brown (Canada) and Diana Ptaszynski
22.  Christina Stofmeel (the Netherlands) and Eva Kovacs (Hungary)
24.  Cilla Watkins (Canada) and Elaine Robitaille (Canada)
25.  Sabrina Straub (Switzerland) and Kathy Combs

32.  Dee Elgie (UK) and Joanne Lockwood (UK)
33.  Dian Hierschel (Germany) and Eniko Fabian (Austria)
37.  Doris Stumpf (Germany) and Eszter Czibulyas (Hungary)
39.  Elke Leonhardt-Rath (Germany) and Marjolein Trewavas (UK)

41.  Erika Nooteboom (the Netherlands) and Giorgia Rossini (Italy)
43.  Evelyn Duberry (Canada) and Gaea Cannaday
45.  Ginger Bishop (military, Okinawa) and Martina Nagele (Germany)
48.  Helene Goldberg (Australia) and Karen Vincent
54.  Joanna Matuszczyk (Poland) and Julianna Kis (Hungary)
55.  Joanne Tinley (UK) and Michaela Pabeschitz (Austria)
65.  Kristina Johansson (Sweden) and Penny Neville (Canada)
66.  Krisztina Erlaki-Toth (Hungary) and Nicole Keller (Germany)

76.  Lori Finney (Canada) and Marie-Noel Voyer-Cramp (Canada)
78.  Marta Kaczerowska (Poland) and Milla Starchik (Canada)
83.  Michelle Jensen and Sandra Young (Canada)
92.  Rosa Maria Cuevas (Mexico) and Tejae Floyde
93.  Sabine Dittrich (Germany) and Sally Russick
95.  Shanti Johnson and Tracy Mok (Canada)
97.  Sonya Stille and Traci Zeller (Canada)
98.  Stefanie Teufel (Germany) and Tania Hagen (New Zealand)