"To live in the world without becoming aware of the meaning of the world is like wandering about in a great library without touching the books.".....The Secret Teachings of All Ages

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Revamping, Improving, and...Bees.

I've mentioned in a few posts here that I am in the process of trying to improve my Etsy site. Currently, it looks dated. Well, to me anyway. I have put the site on "vacation" mode until I decide what I want to change, and until I have enough new stock to freshen things up. Many of the pieces currently on the site are old, and after repeatedly being re-posted with no response, and having been lugged around to various SCA events where they essentially got  ignored, I am going to dismantle them and use the parts for something new.

Another of my problems is photographs. I have limited ability for snazzy photos. Mainly due to lighting. My house is dark, especially in the winter, and even with lots of lights focused on a piece, I still get shadows...usually of my head as I bend in to get a closer shot. During the summer I can take pieces outside and that works fine, but the bottom line is, I need to make a light box. Nothing fancy, but something that will give me a better quality photo no matter the season. So, add that item to my long list of "Need to do/make" projects.

Here is an example of what I am talking about. To show off this new bracelet, I was attempting to use one of my old books as a prop. Not sure how successful the experiment turned out, since I still think the lighting is terrible. I like the idea, just not this current execution of the idea. And as per usual, there is the shadow of the top of my head on the left bottom corner.

Then I got really wild, and attempted a few iPhoto options for enhancing pictures. In my old computer I have the ancient Adobe Photoshop 2.0, which allowed me to play with effects. My new computer doesn't have Photoshop, and I've been told the old 2.0 disc won't work with it. So, this is what I came up with in the limited resources of iPhoto. I got a bit of feedback on this from my FB friends, who liked the effect. However, when I thought about what it would look like with a whole page of items surrounded in black halos, I decided the effect would end up making my Etsy home page look like a weird chessboard. This is the photo, but I am not going to use this effect for displaying my work.

So my search for an eye-catching way of displaying my pieces without taking the focus away from the piece, and not making my Etsy home page look like I should hand out game pieces with each sale, goes on.

Which brings us to bees. In one of my jewelry/beading books, I noticed that a few of the artists featured add a special charm to each piece. Sort of an ID charm. I liked the idea, and thought about what kind of special charm I might like to add to each of my own pieces. At first I thought of dragonflies, as I love the creatures and we have a lot of them around our place. But the available charms for dragonflies were either too expensive or too dorky. Then I got a new Fire Mountain Gems and Beads catalog, and on one page was a cute little bee charm, sold in packages of 50.

I like bees. I look forward to seeing them return to the garden every Spring. I have a special understanding with the bees—and not just honey bees, but native bees, and all the different bumble bees—I respect them, and they don't sting me. It has worked out fine for over twenty years. I also like the symbolism that bees represent: Industry, productivity, and giving back to the world in which they live by polinating flowers and trees, literally keeping us in fruit, veggies, and flowers. And they create something lovely in the process. Honey.

So finding that special price on a package of 50 bee charms was a sure sign that the bee should be my personal ID charm for each piece. This in hopes that it will symbolize for me the industry of working hard at my craft, producing new pieces, and giving back by donating pieces to non-profit group silent auctions or raffle prizes whenever I can. And although many would consider it frivolous, I think a lovely piece of jewelry is like honey, in that it feeds, if not the stomach, at least the spirit. That can only "bee" good thing, don't you think?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Belle Epoch Necklace

Two things happened recently that inspired this necklace. The first was two friends sending me boxes of beads and findings, because they were things they couldn't use. Between the two, I scored a huge stash of agate, jade and quartz beads, faceted glass beads, painted wood beads, and a large collection of silver coins with bales already attached, from several foreign countries. Also my mother gave me a inexpensive (from a Big Box Store) heart bracelet that she didn't want. So, a ton of new stuff to play with, which is always fun.

The second, was finding a site on Pinterest that showed dozens and dozens of period clothing, hats  and jewelry from the Edwardian and the Belle Epoch eras...approximately late 1800s to the outbreak of WWI. These are my favorite eras for ideas in unique color combinations, designs to tweak and adapt for stencils, appliques, and beading on clothing of my own. Also for wire jewelry ideas. Obviously, there is NO way I can copy the amazing work by jewelers of that time. Those pieces are works of art, and most reside in museums. But I can simplify...a lot...the swirls and leaf/vine shapes of those Art Nouveau and Edwardian pieces.

Which brings me to this latest necklace, made from agate beads, faceted glass beads, glass leaves and flowers, turquoise chips, dusky-blue ceramic beads, drop pearls, two slides with rhinestones, "silver" worked wire, purchased chain, one of the dozen lanyard clips included in one of the gift box stashes, and faux-silver marcasite hearts from that bracelet of my mom's. As you can tell, I am all into recycling, upcycling...or whatever they call it these days.

Work table...necklace in progress.

The lovely green pearls did not end up in the finished work.  The three connected hearts to the left of the photo are what is left of the little bracelet my mom gave me to play with.

And here is the finished piece.

And here is an FYI: My Etsy site is temporarily closed. I am in the process of updating all of my jewelry pieces and revamping the site. This piece is the first one in that process. I got to the point where the site looked dated, and a lot of the jewelry were things that had been on and off the site since I opened it, about three years ago, and hadn't sold. Also, I am trying VERY hard to improve the quality and workmanship. Which is another reason why most of the old pieces will be taken apart and made into something else. I was new to a lot of the techniques needed, and have improved, I hope, since then. Still improving and learning, which is a lot of fun. And I'm still collecting bits and bobs, haunting junk/antique stores for that special find...like the mason jar full of broken bits I just scored the other day for $9, which ended up being 75% usable for upcycling. I don't usually get that lucky, and end up tossing or giving to the Goodwill almost half to 75%, with only that last 25% being anything I would want in a piece.

So, thanks to my mom, friends, and a lucky junk store find, I have lots of new things to play with, and an eye-candy web site to inspire me to keep pushing that design envelope.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Linen Jacket #1

This was the first Christopher & Banks linen jacket I bought at the Goodwill ($45 jacket for $3.99) about a month before Christmas. It had machine-sewn embroidery, and machine-created openwork on the front, and a back yoke decorated with a small sprig of machine-embroidered leaves.

Here is what the back looked like when I bought it.

I let it sit in my closet for a while, until I decided what I wanted to do with it. In the meantime, I did this to a Goodwill sweatshirt.

I liked the free-form curlicues so much, I wanted to play around with them on something else. So I dug out the linen jacket and went to work. Here is the result.

Then I added beads.

Since I didn't want to overpower the nice soft color of the linen, I didn't get real wild with the stitching and beads. I have only worked the back for now and since I have some other things that need to get sewn and finished, that are more urgent, I will go back later and add a similar design down each side of the front of this jacket. I really do love the curlicues, so I suspect they will show up on lots of things in the future.