Sunday, December 26, 2010

Introducing: My Woven Bead Tutorial

It's been several months in the making (and one of the reasons for my pre-holiday stress level), but I finally finished writing my second lampworking tutorial! YAY!

After our family vacation in Maui this summer, I was inspired to create some beads that reflected the natural beauty and culture of this amazing island paradise. One of the things that I immediately thought of making was a pattern that looked like the lovely woven palm frond mats I often saw in the shops. Since I’d never seen a bead done with that kind of a pattern before, I pondered on the flight back home how I might go about “weaving” glass strands together to get the same effect.

A few days after we returned home, I set about making a set of beads from the plan I had figured out in my head on the flight—and was totally thrilled when it worked out even better than I had hoped—on the first try?!! Here's a photo of the set I created…

After showing these beads proudly off to some of my lampwork friends and getting so many questions on how I had accomplished it, I realized that this technique was something other people hadn’t seen before either. Thus, this tutorial was born!

For those of you who love to make beads like me, I'm offering this fun tutorial for sale in my ArtFire shop HERE and my Etsy shop HERE. (If possible, I would prefer that you order it from my ArtFire shop, as they don't charge a commission fee.) This has been a real labor of love and I hope that everyone who buys it will enjoy learning and making "woven" beads as much as I do! *Ü*

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!!

Christmas Eve, before the "feeding frenzy"…

This this morning, the opening of gifts commenced! We had to let Indy open his gift first, because he absolutely loves getting presents on Christmas and is smart enough to expect one each year. Poor Romeo isn't quite so smart and hid in the Family Room. (We think he had a traumatizing experience in his past life involving kids and flying gift wrap paper??)

Ashley and Katie loved all their gifts, but this was their reaction when Kraig presented them with gifts from "Santa" at the very end—snazzy new MacBook Air laptop computers…(you might want to plug your ears)…

We probably won't see or hear them again for a week?! ;-D

And if you're wondering what that honkin' box beside the tree was, here's Kraig sitting in his special present (wearing some of his other gifts)—a full back massage chair with all sorts of cool features. It works so well, he decided to go take a nap!

I was blessed with many wonderful gifts as well—including a full "Handyman Tool Kit" in pink, a cordless Dremel for cleaning my beads, and a gorgeous Artisan-made necklace that I admired in Maui during our summer vacation (sneaky hubby had it all this time!!). But I'm wondering how it worked out that I'm the one that got all the power tools this year?!?? LOL

Now I'm going to finish enjoying my delicious coffee cake Kraig baked for us, read a bit of my new book, and get ready for a nice visit from my in-laws for Christmas dinner. I hope that you are having a wonderful morning as well and that the rest of your Christmas Day is very special. Don't forget to wish Jesus a "Happy Birthday" too! *Ü*

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Greatest Gift

I won't lie to you—for over a month I've been a "just a little" stressed out, trying to get ready for and enjoy my favorite season of the year: Christmas. I had so many wonderful goals, that this year, I was going to do all sorts of fun stuff—like starting an advent calendar journal, getting the house decorated a la Martha Stewart by Thanksgiving, hosting a neighborhood cookie swap, creating a whole glass Nativity set, and joining a choir to sing The Messiah. But with so many other things and two teenagers demanding my time, I've felt like one of those circus performers that has 10 plates spinning on high thin poles, constantly running from plate to plate, keeping everything spinning frantically to prevent them from falling down.

I don't know quite what it is—things seemed to much simpler and easier when my children were younger?! So while my home is at least decorated (although perhaps not quite to Martha's lofty standards!) and I got all my gifts mailed out in time, I didn't make any of my other goals and have yet to convince my daughters that it's still "cool" to carry on the family tradition of decorating gingerbread houses for Christmas. *sigh*

But you know what? That's not what Christmas is all about, is it?! 2,010 years ago, a desperate couple took a hard journey to Jerusalem, and a baby boy named Jesus was born in a simple manger. There were no fancy decorations or big family gatherings to celebrate the birth of our Savior, and I'm sure Martha would have been horrified by the state of that stable! But to think that He would humble himself to become a man to give us the greatest gift of all—Salvation!? Now that's cause for celebration and the true "Reason for the Season!"

I'd like to share one of my favorite Christmas songs from a wonderful group called Avalon. This song always pulls hard at my heartstrings during the holidays—reminding me of how important it is to carry the love of Christ(mas) throughout the year, not just in December…

When I reflect back and dwell on all the blessings that God has given me and my family, all my disappointment for unmet goals and dreams fade away and I'm left with a heart full of love and gratitude. I pray that you are feeling the same and I wish you much joy as we celebrate the biggest Birthday Bash of the year together! *Ü*

And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.  And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
Luke 2:9-14

Wishing you Great Joy & Peace 
on Christmas
(and throughout the year!)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Snowball Giveaway Winner

I ended up deciding to draw names out of a hat to determine the winner and my set of frosty Snowball beads goes to…

Sydney of!!

Congrats! I hope you have fun creating something wonderful with them!

I also want to thank everyone who "liked" my Facebook Fan Page and/or "hearted" my Etsy shop to enter this Giveaway contest. You all left such nice comments and every day it was so much fun to log on and read them. I just wish I had enough beads to give to all of you! *sigh* But I hope that you will keep in touch because I promise there will be more fun giveaways and contests in the future! *Ü*

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Happy Haul-idays Winner Announced

And sadly…it wasn't me! *sigh* The lucky winner was CakeSpy, which I discovered is also a fantastic blog featuring lots of yummy goodies. Congrats, Jessie! And to help ease the disappointment for all my fellow non-winning entries, Chronicle Books is offering this sweet Consolation Prize:

35% off + free shipping through December 16, 2011
Use this promo code at checkout: HAULIDAYS

Thanks to everyone who left their comments on my blog post and I hope you'll have fun taking advantage of this great deal—I know I will! *Ü*

Also, don't forget that you have an even better chance to win something else here—a set of my frosty Snowball beads! I made them myself on my torch and they are so much prettier and sparkly in person—they would make a fantastic jewelry design for the Winter season! Check out this link to my original blog post to get all the details on how to enter my fun Giveaway this week HERE.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Two Reasons to Celebrate!

The first reason I'm celebrating today (and by far, the most important one) is that 24 years ago, I married my best friend, Kraig. I look back and wonder at how young (and skinny!?) we were back then and how much in love we were with each other…

And the best thing is that we're blessed to be closer than ever after all these years—through all the ups and downs life has thrown at us—we've faced them head-on, together. The old adage "Time flies when you're having fun!" definitely applies to us and I'm looking forward to seeing what the next 24 years hold in store for us!

And the second reason I'm celebrating is that last week, I reached my goal of making 100 sales from my Etsy shop! I made this goal a few months ago, when my sales were around 73, and at the time, I thought it was just a fun dream to hit 100 by the end of the year. But thank the Lord for wonderful customers who love sparkly glass and jewelry as much as I do!

So as a token of my appreciation, I'm going to give away a set of my fun Snowball beads to one lucky reader. All you have to do to enter is either one of these things:

     "Like" my Facebook Fan Page HERE, or
     "Heart" my Etsy shop as a Favorite HERE

Then mention which one you did in a comment here (just one entry per person, please). And if you're in an especially appreciative mode, you could always do both? ;-D If you've already done both options before, just let me know and you're still more than welcome to enter. (After all, you're one the reasons for the celebration!). Please make sure to also leave a way for me to contact you.

This giveaway will run from today through this Saturday, December 18th and I will draw a name using the Random Number Generator on Sunday. Good luck and thank you for celebrating with me! *Ü*

Edited to add: The lucky winner was Sydney! YAY!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Celebrate the Haul-idays!

Ever since I was a very young girl, I've adored reading books! At first I was really into fairy tales and mythology, then I moved on to animal themes and horse stories like "Black Beauty" and romances like "Gone With the Wind" when I entered my teenage years. Then I graduated to murder mysteries, science fiction, home decor, art techniques, and tear jerkers. I love to read just about anything (except maybe Stephen King, because he gives me nightmares!). And just like when I was a child, it's not uncommon to find me curled up in a blanket on my bed or the sofa, engrossed for the next few hours in a good book.

So when I heard about the special Celebrate the Haul-idays giveaway that Chronicle Books is doing, I was all over it! LOL Here's the deal: I pick out $500 worth of their books and put them on a wish list on my blog. And after December 10th, Chronicle Books will randomly choose a winning blog and one of its readers to win the shopping spree!

My wish list is chock full of artistic inspiration (because, really, can we ever get enough of that?!), home decor, jewelry design, European travel, and yummy baked treat cookbooks (definitely can't get enough of those! LOL):

Decorate by Holly Becker 
Treasured Notions by Kaari Meng
Over The Door by John Yang
The Handy Book of Artistic Printing by Doug Clouse
Adorn by Amanda Mansell
City Walks: Paris by Christina Henry de Tessan
Pretty Cupcake Kit, Projects by Shauna Faust
Sis Boom Notecard Book by Jennifer Paganelli
Very Merry Cookie Party by Barbara Grunes
Milk & Cookies by Tina Casaceli
Heavenly Vaults by David Stephenson
Cities of Europe by Laura Tarrish
Visions of Heaven by David Stephenson
Beach by Josie Iselin
The New Color Book
At Home with Friends by Michele Adams and Gia Russo
Craft Inc. by Meg Mateo Ilasco
Reprodepot Pattern Book: Flora by Djerba Goldfinger
The Illuminated Lettering Kit by George Thomson

The deadline of the 10th is almost here (I tend to wait to the last minute to get the best adrenaline rush?! LOL). So please leave a comment soon and keep all your fingers and toes crossed for both of us! *Ü*

Monday, December 6, 2010

Custom Personalized Monogram Pendants

I'm so excited to show you another new design that I've been working on: Custom Monogram Pendants! They are handmade by me out of bronze metal clay, using a filigree vine alphabet stamp that I think has a lovely vintage feeling about it. To add extra interest, I've combined it with a creamy white freshwater pearl and Swarovski crystal in your choice of colors to match your birthstone or favorite color.

I love how bronze has such a warm, rich character to it and looks great on any skin tone color. And it's much more affordable than Precious Metal Clay (PMC), although the time and care involved in the creation and finish work is the pretty much the same for any of the clay types. I hope to offer this design in a few other alphabet styles and in a fine silver and sterling necklace, but will probably wait a bit to see how this bronze version does in my Etsy and ArtFire shops first.

I know it's cutting it a little close to the Christmas shopping deadline, but I was thinking that these would make wonderful unique and sentimental gifts. (I know there are definitely two daughters who will be finding one in their stockings this year? sshhhhh!) And after the Christmas holidays are over, I'll still be making these since I think they'd also be great for wedding party, birthday, and friendship gifting as well.

I'd love to hear what you think of this design and what type of letting styles and metal finishes would you like to see next? *Ü*

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Pantone Fall Trend Colors for Christmas

I'm still working through all the beautiful colors from the Pantone Fall 2010 Color Trends forecast, and I thought it was especially appropriate to highlight three of the colors that I thought are perfect for this time of year:

Only 20 more days until Christmas, but still plenty of time to make some beads, decorations, or other festive accessories for the holiday season, right?! ;-D Endive is a pale yellowish green with the tiniest hint of brown, while Woodbine is a medium dark sagey pine green with a hint of yellow. Both colors would look wonderful by themselves or paired together in floral or leafy designs. Lipstick Red is my favorite shade of red—rich and luscious and leaning more towards ruby, rather than a bright primary tone.

I looked through my glass stash and after a little experimentation, decided on these colors that I thought matched the Pantone recommendations the best:

From left to right: 
    Vetrofond Pale Pesto stringer work over Creation is Messy (CiM) Olive base
    CiM Olive stringer work over Vetrofond Pale Pesto base
    CiM Olive stringer work over Effetre Uranium Yellow Opaque base

I'm pretty sure I used Pesto for the stringer work on the nugget bead on the left, but it sure looks different from when I used Pesto as the base color, doesn't it? hmmm… I'll have to double check that one to see if maybe I used CiM Dirty Martini instead?! For the two lentil beads, you can see how differently the Olive stringer looks on the two base colors—on the Pesto it stays nice and crisp, but on the Uranium Yellow it bleeds out quite a bit. This could be used for some great organic designs through!

A few weeks ago, I was inspired by the Fire Diva's Christmas theme Challenge and this is what I created for it—my own version of a Mistletoe Kissing Ball:

I used Olive as the base and loved how it turned out! So I made some more and decided to take it a step further, adding some complimentary accents to give this set a more festive pop of color:

The two larger red rounds with the polka dots were created with Effetre Medium Red and CiM Peace white. I like this red a lot, but as you can see, it tends to get dark streaks in it. An alternative glass that doesn't have this streaky quality is CiM's Sangre, which is a lovely red that I used it to create the two spacer beads on the ends. It is a transparent glass, but can get more opaque, depending on how long and hot you work it in the flame.

CiM's Bordello is another nice transparent red, but it is much more saturated than Sangre and needs to be layered over white if you want to bring out a lighter ruby color. If you have any other glass color that you'd like to recommend for this color palette, I'd love to hear about them! *Ü*

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Winter Roses are Still Blooming

I know I haven't posted any eye candy in a while, so I figured I'd share a photo of a set of beads that have been sitting on my desk for several months now. I made them when I was on a hot streak making Watercolor Rose beads and they turned out so well, I've been hoarding them to myself like Gollum from Lord of the Rings. (Some mornings, I even look a little like him, before I've had a chance to pull myself together! LOL).

I keep debating whether or not to list these for sale, and I hold back because I'm afraid I'll never be able to make a set like this again. Already, I sit and stare at them and wonder how I ever accomplished it in the first place?! LOL I guess that's the conundrum of being an artist… giving up something that might not ever be able to be reproduced again? Of course, I know that the inherent nature of glass means that every single bead will always be unique, but still… I love these particular ones so much… my precioussssssssss…

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Flash Mob: Hallelujuh Chorus

I recently heard about this Flash Mob video from a wonderful blogger I've been following, Deryn Mentock of Something Sublime, and I just had to share it here too! I love this one because it features one of my favorite choruses to sing, the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's wonderful Messiah oratorio.

Here's how Wikipedia describes this classical work:

Messiah presents an interpretation of the Christian view of the Messiah, or "the anointed one" as Jesus the Christ. Divided into three parts, the libretto covers the prophecies concerning the Christ, the birth, miracles, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, and finally the End Times with the Christ's final victory over death and sin.

Although the work was conceived for secular theatre and first performed during Lent, it has become common practice since Handel's death to perform Messiah during Advent, the preparatory period of the Christmas season, rather than in Lent or at Easter.

I was honored with the opportunity to sing this several times with my fellow Concert Choir members during my college years and have always been inspired by it. Even after all these years, I still remember my "big mama alto" part! ;-D There's just something extra special about this chorus that brings out the reverence and praise to God for me like no other music—especially when surrounded by beautifully harmonizing voices. I can only imagine how surprised and then thrilled these unsuspecting shoppers were when these talented people began to sing—the acoustics in this place must have been amazing!

On a lighter note, here's another video with a completely different approach. I doubt if real monks under vows of silence would portray the music quite like this, but I think it's cool to see the words pop up and feel the praise that way too!

I would love to participate in the entire concert again someday… maybe next year I'll look around and see where I might be able to join a local choir production? If you've never been to one before, I highly recommend it—I promise you will leave feeling refreshed and inspired for this Christmas season! *Ü*

Monday, November 29, 2010

Bring It On Giveaway!

And the winner of the CSN Gift Card is… Angela!
Congratulations, and I hope you'll have fun getting that new cast iron skillet! 
  The winner was picked with the Random Number Generator.
Thank you to everyone who participated and Happy Holidays to you all too! *Ü*

I don't know about you, but I hate the holiday shopping frenzy this time of year! Not that I mind shopping for gifts for all my loved ones—I love that part!—but the craziness of the crowds, searching hopelessly for a decent parking spot, fighting with some stranger to get the last whatchamacallit on sale, etc. just isn't my favorite winter sport. LOL This year, I'm trying to do more online shopping and using the time I've saved to work on my handmade gifts, decorate the house, and just relax (for a change! ;-D).

So, to help spread this new shopping philosophy, I'd like to introduce my "Bring It On Giveaway" this week. It's sponsored by CSN Stores, which features over 200 online stores where you can find everything from holiday decorations, a leather briefcase, great cookware, and even space heaters for those of you who make beads in their cold garage like me! The folks at CSN have generously offered to give one of my readers a $35 gift card in the form of a promotional code that can be used on any product on their site. All you have to do is leave a comment (maybe something on your Christmas wish list?) and a way to contact you by this Saturday, Dec. 4th, and on Sunday I'll draw the name of one lucky person to receive the gift card. Just think of all the cool things you could order with it—to treat yourself or give as a gift for Christmas?!

I'm planning on doing more great Giveaways like this in the future, so if you'd like to make sure you don't miss hearing about them, you can join my email list, "like" me on Facebook, and/or add me to your Twitter follow list.

Please note that I don't receive any compensation from CSN for offering this Giveaway. I'm just a lucky blogger that got picked for the opportunity to share free goodies with my readers. Works out great for me too, as I love to give presents! *Ü*

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

Still a bit of work to do around the house before 10 other family members come over to share Thanksgiving dinner with us today, but I'm still thinking thankful thoughts this morning! *Ü*

Some of the things I'm thankful for today:
   1. Having a great family network of relatives and friends
   2. A warm, safe home where the power is still on after the winter storms
   3. Healthy, smart children
   4. A wonderful and supportive hubby
   5. Good weather for a smooth drive to our house
   6. All of God's other blessings in my life!

To celebrate, I'm also starting my Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend sale a bit early, at 8 pm tonight! Everything in my Etsy and ArtFire shops will be 10% off though the weekend, until Monday night. So if you've been searching for some great handmade beads or finished jewelry for people on your Christmas shopping list, I hope you might find something in my shop? ;-D

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with your family and friends too!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Taste of Winter

Over the past few days, we've had our first Fall snowfall of the year—which started out small, then came on with a vengeance yesterday and ended up causing quite a stir on the highways with slick, icy roads and downed power lines. Luckily, Kraig has been taking off a few days for the Thanksgiving holiday, and didn't have to drive through all that!

This morning, we woke up to a pristine white wonderland and it is so beautiful! I love fresh snowfall… as long as I don't have to go out into it for very long. I'm much more of a "stay inside with a warm cup of cocoa, a cozy sweater and slippers" kind of gal! But I did slip on some boots and a coat so that I could run outside and snap some quick photos of our yard:

Even before the snow came, I've been inspired by the winter theme in my bead making. Here are a few sets that I've been having a lot of fun making:

Snowballs & Ice Blue Disks
Ice Blue Ribbed Sparkle Spheres
Silver Gold Sparkle Cubes
The girls were thrilled that school was canceled and begged me to come outside and make a snowman with them, but the snow was so light and powdery, nothing would stick together. But it's supposed to stay cold for the next few days, so maybe we'll get a chance to make one later on? I hope all the rest of you who may be experiencing similar weather are staying warm and enjoying the wintry fun too! *Ü*

Saturday, November 20, 2010

My Baby Is All Grown Up?!?!

Well, it's official—our oldest daughter, Katie, can now be considered a legal adult!?! I'm still feeling a little shell-shocked by the reality that my "baby" can now run off and join the military, get married, or *gasp* get that tattoo she keeps talking about. ACK!! Seriously—where does all the time go?! It doesn't seem that long that she was just a newborn in my arms, and I was a scared young mother, afraid or dropping her. (We won't even talk about the time during that first week, when my hubby asked me out for ice cream and I said, "Sure!" and grabbed my purse to run out the door—only to have him gently ask me if I was forgetting something? I replied that I had my purse and was ready to go, and then it hit me… I almost forgot to bring the baby?!)

To celebrate, we planned a surprise party for Katie, and had all her best friends meet us after school, and then I whisked them off to see the new "Deathly Hallows" Harry Potter movie that she was dying to see. Afterward, they all came back home to dine on fine pizza cuisine and birthday cake, open presents, and generally hang out and act like typical crazy teenagers. She was definitely surprised and I think she had a great time. She certainly loved her new cell phone and probably racked up at least 1,000 texts already by the end of the day! LOL

We're so proud of our girl and all that she's already accomplished in her life so far. We know she has many other wonderful things to look forward to and we love the beautiful young woman she's become! xoxo

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pantone Fall Trend Color: Golden Glow

What could be richer sounding than "Golden Glow" for a color? It brings to my mind images like rays of warm sunshine, golden metals like brass and antique gold, the rich colors of the desert, and gooey butterscotch caramels. Sounds like Heaven now that the weather here in Washington consists mostly of grey skies these days! To translate this color in glass beads, here are a few suggestions I think work well:

A new Effetre color called "Butterscotch Sparkle" that was recently introduced fits this hue perfectly! It is a creamy translucent glass, with just a hint of shimmer inside that reminds me of fresh honey. Unfortunately, it was a limited run and is now very hard to find. I was one of the lucky ones who was able to snag some of it right after it came out, and you bet I'm hoarding it like Midas! ;-D Here are some beads I made with it:

Butterscotch & Cream Pendant
Butterscotch Spacers

Another glass color I would suggest is called "Ghee" by Creation Is Messy (CiM). This glass looks more like a pale yellow in rod form, but when melted, it turns a deeper color that gets darker as you work it in the flame—much like how butter changes when melting it in a skillet. I like this color a lot, but it can be tricky to get consistent color from bead to bead because of the way it tends to darken in the flame.

And finally, another fun way to add this golden color into your beads is through a frit blend, such as "Safari" from Glass Diversions. I love how this blend also has some of Pantone's "Chocolate Truffle" color mixed into it for instant pizzazz, as you can see in this set. I added a touch of sparkling goldstone ribbon before swirling the colors together and pressing them into oval lentil shaped beads.

Wild Enchantment
Wouldn't this color also look stunning combined with some of the others in the Fall palette, such as Lipstick Red or Purple Orchid? hhmmm…I suddenly feel the urge to melt several of these jewel tones together to brighten my day! *Ü*

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pantone Fall 2010 Forecast

Well, I'm running a little behind on my take on Pantone's Color Forecast for Fall 2010, but I thought it would still be fun to show all the beautiful colors people are wearing and decorating their homes in this Fall season. One of the things I love about the Forecast is seeing the new palette of color trends for the upcoming seasons and using it to inspire my bead and jewelry designs. I can see the jewel tones also working well through the Winter season (and I promise to get to the Pantone Spring 2011 Forecast in a more timely manner!).

So over the next two weeks I'm planning on highlighting one or several of these colors in separate posts and hopefully share some great design inspiration for you too!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Blog Giveaway Winner!

Today is the day I can finally announce the winner of an exclusive 30% off coupon from Brenda's Jewelry Box! My daughter, Ashley, drew names out of a hat and the winner is…

Congratulations, and I'm sure you will find something wonderful from Brenda's Etsy shop to pick out as a special treat for yourself or give as a gift! (Quite frankly, I'm feeling a bit jealous. ;-D)

And I'm also excited to announce that the winner of a 20% off coupon to my own shop, chosen from comments left on Brenda's blog, is Cara! Congrats!
Thank you again to Brenda, for being such a good sport, sharing a bit of your life and creative philosophy with me and my readers—I'm so lucky to have found a "kindred spirit" like you to be my Etsy Bootcamp Buddy! And I wanted to send out a big "thank you!" to everyone else who participated in my first ever Blogger Interview GIveaway and left such nice comments for both of us. I am definitely planning on doing more of these, so stay tuned, folks! *Ü*

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday Find: Vintage Keys

I looooove to walk around flea and farmer markets—hunting for "finds" that I can capture and drool over in delight like Gollum and his "Precious." Some of the things I've always enjoyed collecting over the years are vintage skeleton keys—I love how they're all different, have their own personalities, and reflect a sense of gentler days gone by. I didn't really know what I would use them for, but I kept collecting them, figuring something would eventually come to me. (I need HELP, people! Is there such a thing as a "Collectors Anonymous" program? LOL)

When I started making my own glass beads, I was over the moon when I discovered that people were using skeleton keys to create unique lampwork pendants. Bingo! But it took me over a year to give it a try—because as many a kindred collector knows, it's hard to give up a special object you've been hoarding for so long! ;-D But several months ago, I took the plunge and made some Key Beads—and I think they turned out rather well!

Key to My Devotion
This type of project is a little more difficult to do if you're a novice lampworker because it can be awkward to turn the key evenly as you work—but it's not that hard if you take your time and work slowly. First of all, you need to make sure the key is made out of a hard metal like steel or brass that can stand up to the high temperatures of the torch flame. Then you need to thoroughly clean it with some soap and water and a wire brush to get rid of any crusty build-up or rust. I don't like to clean mine so hard that it loses the nice vintage patina that gives it character—just enough so my bead release will stick properly.

Siberian Tiger Key Bead
 There are two ways you can go about adding a bead around a key:

1) Heat up the key like you would a regular mandrel and add the glass directly to it. The bead will be permanently attached to the shaft and will not be able to move.

2) Dip the entire key shaft into bead release, let air dry completely, and then heat up and form your bead on it. The advantage of this method is that after the bead release has been cleaned off, the bead will be loose and able to spin freely. I prefer this method because I love being able to play with the bead while I'm wearing it as a pendant.

With either method, you need to properly anneal your key bead immediately after finishing it. Otherwise, you may have problems because the metal and glass may contract at very different rates if they cool down too quickly.

One of the trickier issues to deal with is how to hold the oddly shaped key so that you can work with it in the flame? I use a simple handmade steel tool made to hold short lengths of glass rods, clamped around the barrel end of the key. Some people use hemostats, and there is a mandrel tool made specifically for key beads you can buy from Etsy seller Jelveh Designs HERE. I also read about a lampworker who sticks a regular mandrel directly to the key with the bead release so that they're sort of "glued" together as they dry. I might have to give that a try next time!

Even if you're not into making glass beads, I can see many wonderful possibilities for similar designs using other materials such as polymer clay, paper mache, or felt. Leave it as is for a classically simple design, or add a couple fun doodads, ribbons, or charms to create a more eclectic look—the sky's the limit!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembering our Veterans

Reflecting back with heartfelt gratitude and pride on this Veteran's Day… the courage my Dad, uncles, and father-in-law demonstrated many years ago through some very difficult times. Much appreciation goes out to all the other men and woman who have also served and protected our great country in the past and present.

Thank you and God Bless!!

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