Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Spring Fever Design Challenge Reveal

Today's the day we finally get to see what everyone has made with the beads they received as part of our 'Spring Fever' design challenge. To recap, all the participants were sent a surprise package containing one of my flower focal sets, one of Caroline's bird focal sets and a length of sari silk courtesy of Claire from Smitten Beads. These have now been turned into pieces of jewellery and I for one can't wait to see what they've become. But first I have to share with you my own designs...

As always I left this until pretty much the last minute and very stupidly forgot to take pictures of my individual many times is that now...?

Anyway, for my first piece I decided to work with Caroline's focal pendant set of a pretty china painted bird and leaf. I started by trying to think of a way to use them independently rather than the set they came as but they really are made for other and look so good together I decided to just go with it. I wired the bird onto a large disc bead to act as a kind of bird table and wired another loop underneath. To this I added the leaf element together with one of my bronze flower charms and some Czech glass flower dangles.

I wanted this to be a long necklace and my natural instinct for this style is to let the focal group do the work and keep the rest very simple but as the host just using a chain for a challenge piece felt like a bit of a cop out so some sort of embellishment was needed. In the end I decided on purple Irish linen woven through the chain and threaded with pearly seed beads.

I love the finished look - subtle and elegant but a bit more eye catching than chain alone would be.
The necklace is completed with hand forged brass 'S' clasp and a couple more Czech glass dangles.

Ceramic bird and lead focal beads by Caroline Dewison, Purple disc bead by, Brass chain, Irish linen and pearlised seed beads from Smitten Beads
Because we put extra sets up for the challenge I didn't actually get one of my own focals from the original batch and decided I would take something from my stock. Of course, by the time I got around to it I didn't have a lot to choose from so my focal is more neutral in colour than the other pieces and I was  concerned that it looks a bit more autumnal than spring like. However, since any spring flower that wants to blossom in my garden this year has had to battle it's way through the untended remnants of last autumn, it doesn't seem wholly inappropriate...!

Another of Caroline's birds has found it's way into this necklace along with one of my bronze flower connectors which acts as a focal clasp.

 The focal elements are accented with ivory lampwork glass, Czech glass and rustic seed beads. I love the earthiness of this  and think it could actually be worn at any time of year.

Ceramic focal, bronze connector and clasp by me THEA Elements, Ceramic bird bead by  Caroline Dewison, ampwork beads by Pebble Dreams, Seed beads from Smitten Beads
I also ran out of Sari silk but I was determined to use all the elements of the challenge so raided my own silk stash to find something suitable. I couldn't find any sari silk that fitted anything like a spring palette so I picked some pretty hand dyed silk strings instead and used these to create some simple macrame wrapped bangles...

As you can see, I have quite a stash of Caroline's bird beads so I sat a couple of these in the centre of hoops of 14gauge bronze wire. Starting from the centre and working outwards I worked a square knot around size 5/6 seed beads.

The wire hoop is connected with simple loops and the silk strings tied of and left as tails to give bangles with a fresh fun look... I think I could get addicted to making these!

Hand dyed silk strings by Diane Turton, Ceramic birds by Caroline Dewison

So there you are then...I hope you've enjoyed seeing how this challenge inspired me. I'd like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has taken part in this challenge and made it so much fun, and to Caroline and Claire for joining me to make it happen in the first place. I hope now you'll join me on the blog hop to see the rest of the wonderful designs...just click on the links below to see more.

All these pieces will be available in my Etsy shop shortly but please let me know if you are interested.


Caroline Dewison - 
Erin Prais – Hintz –


Friday, 11 April 2014

New Earring Tutorial...

I've just added a tutorial for these earrings to my tutorial page - (see tab at the top of this page) - they're quick and easy to make and very light and comfortable to wear and perfect for spring and summer.

Lampwork beads from Mermaid Glass



Monday, 31 March 2014

AJE Component of the Month - March Reveal

Time for another AJE reveal and the component we all had to work with this month was a fantastic ceramic Luna Moth made by the lovely Caroline of Blueberri Beads...isn't it stunning?

I have to say I was a little intimidated by this lovely fella as he is rather large and I was terrified throughout that I was going to drop and break him. Now, he is obviously intended for a necklace...unless you're really into statement earrings and have very strong ears - and I decided that for me it needed to be a short one, again for safety reasons.

At first when I starting looking for accents I was struggling to come up with anything that seemed to either complement or match but, after a good rummage I found this lovely beaded bead by Malin De Koning...

The purples and golds matched my moth perfectly and I liked the way the blue beads added a little pop of contrasting colour so I decided to try and build on that. Eventually I found a selection of art beads I liked and wired them in bronze to form to different but hopefully complementary sections.

Here you can see ceramic beads from Marsha Neal, polymer clay beads from Rebekah Payne and one of my own patinated bronze rings and hooks. I also found some lovely hand dyed ribbon strings from Sowzere Designs in just the right colours which I plaited and added to the linked elements to complete the necklace - not the easiest piece to photograph but here it is...

I wasn't sure about how the lovely turquoise flower sat at first but it's kind of growing on me so I've it as is...what do you think?

I hope Caroline thinks I've done her component justice and I can't wait to see what everyone else had made with theirs. You can join me on our little blog hop using the links below.

The AJE Team
Caroline Dewison – 
Jenny Davies-Reazor -
Rebekah Payne -


Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Soup's up - Double Helpings...

The Bead Soup I sent to my BSBP partner Maryse Fritzsch-Thillens in Luxembourg has arrived and I've received my mix from her so now I can reveal all...

Maryse told me she had never worked with ceramic jewellery components so I decided to build my soup around that to give her a little bit of a challenge. She also said that she loved flowers, sea greens and muted colour palettes so, after a little thinking I came up with a 'Seaside Daisy' collection...

The ceramic focal, bead set and bronze clay heart toggle clasp are my own creations and the bronze wire spiral connectors and twisted wire jump rings were hand made by Lisa Quinn. The sea green crystals and hand dyed chiffon are from Smitten Beads and the little bicone beads are Czech glass but I can't remember where I got them from.

I really like this mix as it reminds me of walking along the south west coastal path where I live in Dorset with its sandstone cliffs, deep green sea and abundance of wild flowers...

And now to the soup mix I received from Maryse - oh boy is it beautiful..? Well here it is see for yourselves...

Just look at this fabulous selection of lampwork all made by Maryse herself...isn't it glorious! I am totally in love with those little organic rocks lower left and as for the beautiful silver focal and spoilt am I!

Now anyone who knows me will be aware that I am more than a little infatuated with the ocean and beach (clue in the picture above) as a source of inspiration for my work. So I am absolutely delighted that Maryse's soup gives more than a passing nod to that theme in both it's colour and texture. In fact, I think she may secretly have been in England looking out over the Dorset coastline when she made some of these beads...
Happy with my soup..? you betcha! I already have some ideas buzzing around in my head and can't wait to clear the decks and sit down to play. Maryse, thank you so much for your wonderful gift and your generosity - If you find the soup I sent you half as inspiring I will be very happy.

See you back here for the big reveal on May 3rd.


Thursday, 13 March 2014

Bead Soup off to Luxembourg...

For this year's Bead Soup Blog Party I have been partnered with Maryse Fritzsch-Thillens of Glass Bead Art, a very talented lampworker from Luxembourg. I've just sent my soup parcel off to Maryse so I obviously can't show you it in all it's glory but here's a little tease just to get you thinking...

I made most of this mix myself so I do hope she likes it...

Maryse makes the most wonderful organic beads and I can't wait to get my parcel from Luxembourg and see what she's sent me. If they're half as beautiful as these examples of her work I'll be more than happy...

You can see more of Maryse's work at her Etsy shop and find out more about her from her blog.

Once my parcel has arrived at its destination I'll be back to show you what I sent Maryse and maybe give you a peek at the beads I received before I start working with them.

See you then.


Monday, 10 March 2014

Image Conscious - Watermarking Photographs...

With all the awful stories about people finding their own photographic images on other peoples sites I've long been thinking that it's time I did something about watermarking the thousands of images I take. I'm a bit of a Luddite when it comes to techie things so I always put them off and when I do bite the bullet it usually turns out to be simpler that I thought - and this was no exception.

If like me you don't have existing soft ware to deal with this then there are number applications available online - many advertised as free although this generally seems to be for a trial period or with very limited capabilities.

I started of with a free trial for an application called Visual Watermark which seemed very simple to use and had everything I need - particularly batch processing, so I eventually bought the app for a one off payment of £18/$29.99 which considering the amount of photographs I take didn't see too bad. I'm not one for comparing and trying a whole host of apps - once I find one that does what I want I tend to go for it and stick with it. If you want to shop around a bit more there are a few links at the bottom of this post that might be useful.

So now I had the means to add watermarks to my photos I had to think about what I actually wanted them to look like. I wanted it to be more than just a simple name but I don't really have a logo for my brand because I dabble with so many things that it's hard to come up with a defined and representative image. At this point the lovely Caroline Dewison (who is definitely a tech head) offered to convert an image to a line drawing that would be suitable for a watermark so I started going through pictures to see if anything jumped out.

I kept coming back to this favourite image of one of my most popular lines from last autumn.

I revamped my business cards recently and used a cropped version of tis image on the back of them and, since a lot of my work is influenced by nature I thought maybe a stylised version of this would be a good representation and give me a cohesive feeling to my branding.

So Caroline got to work and came up with numerous images starting with a line drawing that highlighted the veining of the leaves in the image and then this blocked version.

However, when used in the small sizes required for the watermark they lost definition and looked a bit fuzzy so she smoothed out the edges and simplified the design to this.

I really like the clarity and simplicity of the lines so this is what I've decided to go with and now I'm happily playing with it in Visual Watermark to see how and where it works best. I personally don't think watermarks that go across the subject matter are appropriate when the image is intended to sell and can be off putting so, it needs to be positioned in such a way as to be noticeable but not obtrusive and close enough not to be simply cropped out.

As you can see the watermark can be moved, sized and rotated as required and I think for it to be most effective I might need to think a bit more about the placement of my products for photography than I currently do. I like where it's going though and will continue to play around and test fonts and transparency until I come up with the perfect fit.

If you are looking to do something similar these are a few links I came across during my investigations which as I said may be of use - although I haven't tried them so can't vouch for them.


Thursday, 27 February 2014

Spring Fever Design Challenge - Particpants list...


Well first up can I just say a big thank you to everyone who entered for this challenge and for the sharing that's been going on over the last few days... absolutely fantastic the lot of you! In fact Caroline, Claire and I have been so blown away by the response that we've decided that we're going to choose an extra three participants who will get the bead sets we were keeping for ourselves and, as we have plenty of time we'll make ourselves some more.

Now I've kept you waiting long enough so with out further ado here are the lucky people who will be taking part in the 'Spring Fever Design Challenge'...

Emma Quinn
Kathy Lindemer
Vicky Roberts
Lori Bowring Michaud
Leigh Thow
Ailsa Jackson
Steph L
Kristi Harrison
Lucy Haslam
Penny Neville
Linda - Earthshine Beads
Kristen Stevens
Erin Prais-Hintz
Klassy Joolz
Claire Lockwood
Patti Gasparino
Suhana Hart
Toltec Jewels 
Lori Anderson
Jenny Argyle 

Congratulations - I hope you're all as excited about taking part as we are. Caroline will be contacting you all shortly with payment details and to confirm blog addresses and I'll be working on getting the kits ready to ship.  We'll issue a full list of blog addresses when they've all be collated and checked.  

Although sadly not everyone can be lucky enough to win a place in the challenge, I do have some flower focals in my Etsy shop and Caroline will be adding some bird sets to her shop in a couple of weeks so, if you've already bought or plan to buy any of these you are more than welcome to join in the blog hop with the pieces you make from your purchases, even if you buy one or other of the sets. Sari silk is also available from Smitten Beads . Just let either Caroline of myself know and we will add you to the blog hop list.

Congratulations once again and we look forward to seeing you all on April 16th.