Friday, April 27, 2012

My Tip for Easy Clusters

Let me be honest. I avoided making huge full clusters until just last year. They just seemed like too much work. I mean, these look like they took forever!:

Maybe I'm just lazy, but the idea of all those dangles... I used to shudder at the thought. Not because I don't have the patience to sit and wire wrap. I love wire wrapping! But when I first thought of doing clusters, the process of making one dangle, attaching it to the piece, make another dangle, attatch it to the piece... rinse, repeat... that's what made me run!

Not anymore.

I work in an assembly line style when doing clusters, now.

1) Estimate how many beads you want for your cluster and slip each of them onto their head pins. Try not to overestimate so we don't waste any head pins (I forgot to take a picture of this step).

2) Take your chain-nose/flat-nose pliers and bend each of the head pins at right angles near the bead. Notice, this is the first step to making a loop.

3) Grab your round-nose pliers and make all your loops. In the picture above, I made wrapped loops.

4) Snip the excess wire for all your dangles.

5) Tuck the pointy bit into the wrap (again, forgot to take picture).

If you notice, each step has it's own pair of pliers associated with it... except the first step, which requires no pliers. Because you're not constantly setting down and picking up a new pair of pliers, it cuts down on the time it takes to make the dangles.

Now, the fun part for me is assembling the cluster. For the above earrings, I took a jump ring and attached half my dangles, my wire wrapped briolette, the second half of clusters, and then the earring wire.

If the cluster looked thin, I could always attach more. But if it was too full, I'd have to take the dangle off and kill the head pin which always seems like such a waste.

Another idea for clusters is to string them onto a head pin like in these earrings below:

For these, I used an onyx drop on a gunmetal head pin. I strung my dangles on top and then a gunmetal round. Then, holding the round flush against the dangles, I made a wrapped loop to hold the round in place. The round is nice and tight against the dangles. This keeps the dangles in place and looking full. It gives the earrings a nice cluster cap.

I also love the look a strung cluster of dangles. Or clusters on a chain! When I make chained clusters, I make simple loops instead of wrapped and it's still rather beautiful.

Hope these tips help you when making clusters! Please don't hesitate to ask me questions! I'll answer them if I can :)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

5 Tips on Designing Clusters

[For the Wrapped, Stacked, and Layered Challenge post, click HERE

It's such a deliciously gray day today. And made even more wonderful by the fact that I slept for 5 hours straight last night. You have no idea how wonderful it is for me to sleep through the night. And right now, I'm enjoying a huge cup of coffee and a cheese danish. My hope is that I will stay awake all day and tire myself out so that when it's time for bed, I'll have another restful night. 

But now I'm rambling. This post is supposed to be about clusters!

After my day-trip on Monday with the boyfriend, we settled into Starbucks and proceeded to use up the stores of inspiration we gathered on our adventure. I sketched out and made the earrings above and while making these earrings, my brain came up with some design tips I'd like to share with you.

1) Using balled headpins for your clusters adds a lot of depth to your clusters. Sometimes, clusters can look flat. By bringing in the color of the metal you are using into your clusters, it can break up the clumps of colors and give it depth.

2) Different shapes make your clusters interesting! Experiment with different size beads. Use rondelles and cubes with your rounds. Bring a few 4mm beads to play with your larger ones. Try some bicones!

3) Decide on a dominant color for your cluster. Play with that color by adding beads in different shades.

 4) When I find a color I like, I try to pick 2 or 3 "pop colors," as I like to call them. These are colors that go well with the dominant color but just POP in the cluster. Colors can help determine the "feel" of your piece- Is it "elegant?" "Hippie?" "Casual?"

5) Don't be afraid of texture. Mix wood and gemstones. Add some fiber beads. Depending on how much you play with texture will also help give your piece a certain "feel."

Bonus Color Notes!
 -If you don't have balled head pins or want to try something different, add seed beads to the ends of your head pins. This can add tons of fun interest.
-I LOVE Czech glass beads. Some fire polished beads can come in more than one color. Using these can open up so many exciting doors with color play.

I have another little tip about putting together these fun little clusters, but I'll wait until tomorrow. For now, I'll leave you with some lovely examples of clusters (with one of my own in as well :P).

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Our Day Off

[For the Wrapped, Stacked, and Layered Challenge post, click HERE]

Before I lost my job, the boyfriend and I made frequent trips to LA and Pasadena. Our day-trips were put on hold when Borders closed and we haven't really had one since because the drive and eating out is so expensive. Yesterday, we decided to have a mini-day-trip and drive up the coast a little.

 We were in Newport and Huntington Beach for a while. It was a very cloudy day (even misty at times) and chilly. I wanted to see if there were any shops I could aspire to selling my jewelry in but most of the shops we saw weren't very handmade-friendly.
We drove inland a little and wound up at JJ Beads in Huntington Beach. I was able to buy some balled headpins at a great price and even a strand of yellow crystals for an upcoming challenge project I'm working on. We drove up into LA County and wound up in Torrance where we stumbled into a cool little new age shop. They said it was a book store but they didn't have many books which was a bummer as I love reading about the Hindu religion and Tibetan Buddhism.

Rod jumped onto the freeway and we drove back to Orange County for dinner (pizza... yay!) and hit one of my favorite shops: Papersource. I tried to get a job here and the person who interviewed me was super awesome. I felt like we clicked and had a great interview. She said that I would definitely hear back from the GM... after 2 or 3 weeks, I decided to call back and she wasn't very nice. There's probably a better way of letting someone down than "Oh, we're looking for the best of the best, sorry." My face twitches reading that. Lol.

Back on our turf, we hit Starbucks. I hadn't had coffee all day so you can just imagine how awesome it was to have a hot cup and my sketchbook.

More on those earrings in another post.

I love day-trips. As our luck is slowly starting to turn, I'm hoping we can have more of them. Eventually, I think we want to move to Pasadena or somewhere thereabouts. That's where he lived for a while and where I always want our day-trips to take us.

Do you like day-trips? Do you do a lot of research before heading out or just get in the car and drive? Do you have a special place you love going?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Wrap, Stacked, and Layered Challenge

[Wordy and picture heavy... sorry! Scroll down toward the bottom for the completed stack if you wanna skip over the story... I don't mind... promise! :-)]

The big reveal is here! Tracy Statler over at put together this lovely blog hop challenge of putting together a collection of bracelets that wrap, stack, and layer. Wrapped, stacked, and layered bracelets are all the rage right now. I don't make many bracelets for myself so I took this challenge to create a collection of bracelets just for me!

The challenge:
-Gather bracelets, making at least one or two, into a new and wonderful collection of decadent arm candy!
-The minimum was 3 bracelets total, but the more the merrier.
-"Have fun and mix colors, textures, and different materials." = Straight from Tracy's post about the challenge!
-And of course, photograph said bracelets!

Here we go! (Sorry in advance for the long story :P)

To tell you the truth, I completely forgot about this challenge until Tracy sent out the reminder email 11 days ago. Things have been really crazy on my end with sales picking up (YAY!) and new designs spilling out of my head. I remember clearly the morning I got the email. I had a rough night of no sleep, a common enough thing lately but that morning was really really rough. I happened to go on Facebook and watched this video of an Alzheimer patient listening to music and just coming alive at the sound of his favorite songs. This video had me in tears and missing my grandfather. He died just a few years ago and every now and then, I get hit with a massive wave of longing to see him and hear his voice. He wasn't really there toward the end of his life. It was very sad and I was very angry Alzheimer's. But every time he relearned my name, he would sing the song "Rose Marie." And when my mother put music on for him, he would sway in his wheelchair and sing and hum with the music. It was such a beautiful thing.

I finally fell asleep that morning around 9am and woke at noon after dreaming I was back in my grandfather's garden, picking broccoli with him. You see, he was an agricultural professor in the Philippines and loved plants and nature. And I like to think I get that from him.

My hand reached for my phone, as it always does every morning, to check my email and there was Tracy's reminder email. And I knew, just knew, one of my bracelets was going to feature natural beads to remind me of my Lolo.

These are big-leaf maple tree seed beads. They're made from actual seeds. I bought these beads thinking of my Lolo and have been waiting for the perfect project to work them into and this challenge was it.

I knew I wanted to use some of the silk sari ribbon I bought a few weeks ago. The rolled ribbon has such a beautiful, colorful, and organic look to it. I used some waxed Irish linen cord as my anchor cords, a coconut disk and crystal rondelle for a clasp, and made some square knots for this bracelet. If you need a tutorial for a square knot bracelet, Rebecca wrote a lovely tutorial for Art Bead Scene you should check out! For the hole for the coconut disk to slip into, I just did two over hand knots leaving a space for the clasp to slide into.

Playing off of the colors of my first bracelet, I knew I wanted to have something with a little more sparkle. Something with way more color to it because while the ribbon I used is very colorful, the strips I ended up using didn't have much variation.

So, I grabbed a bunch of seed beads for color...

... and some silver star dust beads for some sparkle (along with some peridot chips... my birthstone, btw :D)...

... added some memory wire and made myself a second bracelet! The seed beads I used here are size 8. Some are silver lined some are matte and with the sparkly star dust beads and organic peridot chips, this bracelet is so fun! I love the texture and the sparkles.

I added a leaf charm and Czech glass flower to throw in a bit more of my nature theme into the bracelet.

Now, with the two bracelets together, I wanted to do a quick wrap bracelet.

Take some embroidery floss (I chose to use 2 colors here), some size 6 seed beads, and a size 3.75 hook and you can whip up a quick and colorful wrap bracelet. I didn't really follow a tutorial for the beaded crochet chain. I just sorta winged it. I'm sure if you Google "crochet bead chain," you'll get some really awesome tutorials.

I chose purple for this because I think that's the color that's missing from my collection of bracelets.


... add 2 old silver bangles from my jewelry collection and you get...

It's a bit messy, but I love it.

And it feels great on my wrist. Very comfy and so many happy colors.

Here's a list of all the lovely participants! Happy hopping! [YOU ARE HERE] :)

Lolo, Lola, and me. Miss you so much.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Me and My Sketchbook

 I've been using my sketchbook a lot lately.

Lot's of new jewelry designs leaving my pen.

And the best part is actually bringing those sketches to life.

I love it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Crazy for Druzy

I spent most of last night and a lot of today trying to read as many articles and watch as many videos on soldering. My late night study session reminded me that I have a book on the matter and that kept me up even later. I'm so very excited to start the process and am hoping for more sales to help fund my new adventure.

My late night readings and video watching led me to dream up rings. I LOVE rings. In high school, I wore one on almost every finger. I don't wear many now because I got into the habit of not wearing them in art school because of clay and paint. But I can't wait to start making my own.

I already know I want to try using druzy cabochons. I've been window shopping on Etsy.

I'm so in love with how they sparkle and shimmer. I love the raw look they have and the different colors they can come in. I'm so crazy for druzy.

And of course, I looked up some rings on Etsy too.

This next ring isn't a druzy but it's still so beautiful. I've been following Marcie Abney's blog probably since I started making jewelry. When I first started, I tried my hand at beadweaving and failed miserably but just love Marcie's work. Sometime last year, she started posting her adventures with metal working and I gobbled up her posts eagerly. This is her first ring and I love it.

For now, I'm gathering up a list of materials I need for my first foray into soldering. And I'm a happy sponge reading up all the material I can. I'm pretty sure I will be working a lot with copper as I love it so much but haven't really read too much about soldering copper so my research adventure continues. I watched one video where the lady just painted the silver solder with copper leaf and left it at that. I don't want to do that. I don't feel that would be permanent... but I will probably try it.

I'm rambling. Lol.

I'm off to do more window shopping and sketching! Happy Tuesday, all!

Monday, April 16, 2012


I ADORE working with wire. I love wrapping it and hammering it. I love the feel of the spool in my hands and the snap sound it makes when you cut it (or it breaks from over working/pulling too hard).

I've taken to wire wrapping Czech glass beads and lucite flowers. The above will become necklaces tomorrow (I said that yesterday on Instagram but I mean it today... I think :P). And I'm hoping to get started on the sketches below.

I like the wire wrapped beauty in the upper right hand corner of this sketch. I'll be practicing my asymmetry skills here.

This one will be a lariat. I need to get my little hands on a crystal or maybe even a large acrylic drop. Something dramatic for this necklace.

I've been sketching a lot of designs lately. Not just of wire workings but also of future components/beads I want to try making. YEP! That's right! I'm saving up to buy a soldering kit and make my own workstation. I'm not entirely sure yet what I need but it has to be portable because I have a feeling I'll be doing my work in the backyard as my room doesn't have very good ventilation.

SO! To get started, I'm going to try my hand at making some little components. The lovely Keristen Giles, one of my bloggy heroes (along with Shannon LeVart, Marie Dodd... so many others), has posted a little tutorial on how to make your own coil crimp ends. Since I LOATHE the ones they offer at craft stores, I'm going to try my hand at making some. Check out her post here.

Wish me luck, people. I've never had luck with these blasted crimp ends but Keirsten makes it seem easy-peasy. Good God, I hope so. :P

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Crocheted Bracelet and Instagram Rant

I love embroidery floss. It comes in SO MANY colors. And isn't so expensive it breaks the bank. I've been teaching myself to crochet off and on for a few months now and wanted to try my hand at making a bracelet.

I decided to do a multi-color bracelet. I chose three colors I thought went well together and gathered them up losely.

I did a long chain with the thread. I love how random it looks.

I ran into some trouble with the double crochet stitch. The hook didn't want to hold the floss sometimes. I'm thinking a slightly larger hook would be better. I'm using a 3.25 hook here.

The finished bracelet. I'm wearing it now and it's super comfy. It needs some tweaking in the design, I think. Like maybe a better button for the clasp. I'm thinking of adding glass beads. Right now, it looks a bit juvenille and that's not what I want. Oh sure, girly is ok but I wanted something a bit more... hip, I guess. Lol.

I've been spending a lot of time making bracelets. I want to try and make more necklaces but just can't seem to "get it." :-\

On a side note, I'm loving Instagram. I love that I can instantly upload my photos of projects (of anything really), and get feedback. I love looking at everyone else's works, too. AND I just die when I see all the cute puppies.

I know all the iPhone users are upset that it's come to Android and I suppose understand. I, myself, have a 7 year old Mac Powerbook which I love to death and prefer above all others but don't hate on other computers. I think it's funny there's a hashtag for all the Android hate/iPhone love and they're blaming the slowness of the program on the fact that Android users have access to the app now (oh, and they're blaming the Facebook buyout too). I haven't had a problem with my HTC. Instagram works great on my phone... maybe it's the iPhone... or their phone provider :P

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

An Awesome Giveaway

Oh my goodness. The lovely, Bead Soup Goddess herself, Lori Anderson is giving away a lovely set of stamps AND a new hammmer!

Head on over to her page here! I sooo want this set but I know whoever wins it will make something amazing!

BTW: Replenishing Supplies

So. Not really a table post, but it does have beads! Lol. Supplies are low so I had to go and buy more. Well. That's my excuse, really. I've just been depressed and needed to do a little retail therapy. Not much... just a little.

This is one of my fave bead stores. It's a tiny little store in Orange, CA called Beads Beads. It's on a busy street and is so small, you'll probably miss it on the first few goes. I always shoot for the Bank of America it's next to but still tend to miss the shop and have to double back.

It's tiny but chock full of beady goodness. A really good selection of Czech glass beads. I usually buy strands here. I have yet to look at their charms or stones, which they keep behind the counter but I make good use of my time and money buying beautiful Czech glass.

And seed beads, of course! For someone who mostly wire wraps them or uses seed beads as spacers, their little tubes are excellent. The white capped tubes are only $0.95! Red is $1.25 and if you need something fancy, black caps are $2.95. There are their size 11s. Size 15s, 8, and 6 are on the other side of the shop and just as well priced (in my opinion).

Here's my haul. Not very big, but it makes me all warm inside. They have some lovely wood beads and I snagged a strand. Their lucite flowers aren't the best priced but they have flowers I haven't seen elsewhere so I snagged some too. Czech glass and seed beads made it into my basket as well as a half-off strand of stone labeled "oyster opal," which I must do research on but for $2, I had to have it. I had a list of beads I wanted to buy on my phone but somehow, managed to forget the amethyst and peacock blue size 8 seed beads! Oh no. Another trip will have to happen again soon... :P

I also needed some buttons and made my way to a craft store. BUT! They didn't have the buttons I needed. Sadness. I'm wondering if they're no longer carrying the design I want and am a little worried I won't be able to replace my used up stock. I finally have a few designs that are popular and the buttons I need feature in one of them. Blah.

My last stop was San Clemente Art Supply. They carry my waxed Irish linen cord. I haven't had the funds to buy all the colors I want in bulk yet so when I get the money, I make my way over to San Clemente and buy 20 yards of a few colors. It lasts me a good while and they're awesome. When I was in art school, I tried to get as much of my supplies from them as possible. I don't do much painting and drawing now but when I do, I still buy from them as often as I can. Support small businesses!!!

Sorry this wasn't a real table post. Tomorrow, I'll try and have something more to show you!

What's on your bead table today?