Saturday, September 26, 2009

Look What Came in Today's Mail!

Living out in the wilds of western France, I don't have the kind of access to bead sellers that I had when I lived in Chicago, so I rely on the Internet. I stopped buying beads on eBay quite a while ago, because the photos were frequently unreliable, and it is so disappointing to open a package of beads and have them be duds. I have found a seller whom I like doing business with, so if you're looking for stones on line (and some other beads, but mostly stones), try This is my latest order, which arrived today:

It includes dyed chalk turquoise, which I've never worked with, but both the nuggets and the disks will look fabulous with black! The golden yellow Chinese topaz is paler than I thought it would be - these beads might be around for a while. I love the faceted opaline moonstones, and they might be a great pairing with the purple crystal rondelles, although that wasn't what I had in mind when I ordered them. The carnelian chips have lots of possibilities - hematite springs to mind, but I can see them with some autumn green agates and jaspers, too ... The pink and red lampwork glass beads were on sale, and I couldn't resist - I have a stock of odds and ends of Venetian glass beads in this style, and it may be time to mix them all together.

So now they are out of the box. They all get entered into my master Excel file, so that I know when and where I bought them and how much I paid (this is worth doing if you sell your jewelry!). Then I'll have to find space for them in my storage boxes. And FINALLY I can to start to play with design - I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Epingle de Pardon

I live in Quimper, in Western Brittany, where the old traditions are alive and summer folk festivals are glorious with dancing, music, and old costumes. I'm a member of the Quimper Club International, a collectors' club for Quimper pottery, made here for over 300 years. At our annual meeting, we often have an auction whose proceeds go to charitable organizations, and the members of the Club donate items, either pottery or things related to Brittany and its culture.

This year, I'm offering an ├ępingle de pardon, a "pardon pin", for the auction. This is a sort of stickpin that young ladies received from young men - it was a way of popping the question in an era when there was not much money for things like engagement rings. The young man gave it to his sweetheart, and if she wore it at the next appropriate occasion, which was quite often next Sunday's church service, then he knew that she was willing to become his wife. If she didn't wear it, the message was clear (and she got to keep the pin).

These pins were made of base metal and fake round pearls, with lots of little pendants, often crescent-shaped. They came in different colors, but only one color for all the beads on any given pin. They were called "pardon pins" because they were bought from itinerant sellers at pardons, which were (are) Catholic festivals particular to Brittany. To see an old one, click here.

This is my modern version of a pardon pin, designed to be worn as a stickpin. I have one of my own that is multi-colored (a real break with tradition!), but for the Quimper Club auction, I stayed with one color range, even though the beads are different in shape, color density, and age. The stickpin is silvered metal, as are the bead caps; the little pendants are sterling. I've done them before in just about every color imaginable, and this time I was inspired to use purple/violet tones!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Designing for Others

When people ask for a custom necklace, I always ask about their preferred color(s), length, and style (classic, funky, vintage - whatever those mean!). Then I make an effort to do something that falls within their guidelines - sometimes it works right off the bat, and sometimes it doesn't. It's a challenge to not impose my personal taste and still create a piece that I'm happy to say I made.

A couple of years ago, a friend gave me a bag of square beige foil glass beads and asked for a necklace. Because I'm a brunette, beige beads are outside of my usual design color schemes, but I love foil glass, so I was happy to give it a try. These were my three trial runs:

This one alternated the square beads with roundish beads in a shimmery copper luster tone and small glass cylinders with a copper-color coating. The overall effect was on the elegant side, copper and beige with highlights.
This one grouped the square beads in threes and set off the groups with dark brown half-opaque round glass beads - the overall effect was classic.
This one alternated the square beads with small vintage beads in luster lavender and luster sage green. It was a great mix of old and new beads.
My friend chose the second one; which one do you think was my preferred necklace of the three??

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Forever Amber

It is always an interesting challenge to be handed a string of beads and asked to "relook" them. A friend of mine gave me a long rope of unpolished chunks of amber, which her mother-in-law had brought with her  when she left Poland many years ago, and asked me to create something for her. She wanted to honor the memory of her mother-in-law, and she wanted something fairly serious.

It was truly awesome to be working with these beads - they were fabulous morsels of amber which were matte, as they hadn't been polished. There were too many beads for one necklace (my friend is short and doesn't wear long, drippy strands), so I opted for two. I played with many combinations of the amber with other stones, and in the end, the most simple was the most effective.

These chunks were strung in groups that were separated with a large chip of quartz, to play up the importance of the color of the amber and the impact of the massed effect.
This necklace was intended to be worn as a double strand, with the individual chunks of amber highlighted with golden color glass seed beads and clear glass rondelles between each chunk. It is a more airy effect that allows each amber bead to be appreciated for its own form and color variation.
When I was finished with the two necklaces, I made a bracelet with the few pieces that were left. And I kept the one bead that I broke while I was working, as a souvenir of this remarkable experience that I don't expect to have the opportunity to repeat.