Sunday, November 22, 2015

Brin de Magie !

Two years ago I wrote about a Christmas market that was on a farm - it was a wonderful weekend but it was a one-time only affair. This year, with one of the organisers of that market, I have been working on a Christmas market (marché de Noël, in France) in the form of a pop-up shop in Quimper. Pop-up shops are a recent phenomenon in France, and they are still relatively rare out here in the provinces. Our shop will be called Brin de Magie ! (just like two years ago) - "a bit of magic!" - and we will be open for the three weeks before Christmas. We have grouped about 20 artists and craftspersons, as well as several not-for-profits who have hand-made items to sell from the countries with which they are associated, and some local authors. If your French is up to it, you can read about it all by clicking here or by checking out our Facebook page - at the very least, you can look at the pictures (and Like in French is J'aime, so don't hesitate!). We're posting new artists every day until we open, and we'll continue to post photos of events along the way.

And so of course I'm not just organizing, I'm selling too! I've been on a push this fall to prepare enough goodies for three weeks of sales (not that I really know what that is ... ). I'm really excited about new designs, and I've been pleased to be able to do some work with stones again - it's been a while. Working with stones is rather like building sculptures - there is something about the heft that develops the sense of working with your hands!

Malachite rectangles with blue and black agates.

Black stones in various forms.

Triangles in African jade, yellow jade, and dyed howlite.

Chunks of coral with black agate and quartz.

An assortment of stones!

And I found a project that I started a number of years ago that got me started with chain mail - I had a group of agate rings that I tried to put together in some kind of a necklace, but I never managed to make it work. Several years, lots of aluminum rings, and many pairs of pliers later, I have finally finished it, and here it is!

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Project

The project (for a client): create a 60" necklace in several chain mail weaves in metallic colors with a patchwork effect.

The calculations: balance of colors and weaves when the necklace is doubled or tripled. Rather fun working with felt-tips for design!

The choices:
*weaves that were roughly comparable in volume - chaos, orbital, byzantine;

*metallic colors - silver, gold, bronze, in various combinations;

*patchwork - using different colors for different weaves in different lengths.

The necklace: very exciting!

Doubled and tripled:

The clasp is a big ring, so one end of the necklace can be pulled through to do other things, like be wrapped into a knot. 


I spent at least four months pondering this project, but when it came together, it flowed - I can't wait to do another one! 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Chain Mail Again!

About three weeks ago, I was asked to participate in an outdoor art fair. I had about ten days' notice and nothing in stock. I thought it would be a good moment to try some of the display tips from a recent webinar that I followed, so I decided to offer only chain mail. I spent a week doing nothing but opening and closing rings and thinking about what could be a drop-dead eye-catcher piece.

The weather forecast for the Sunday of the art fair was ghastly, and Saturday morning I opened my e-mail to find that the fair had been cancelled, a wise decision as it turned out - the pouring rain and howling winds on Sunday morning were enough to keep any and everybody at home warm and dry. I'm very philosophic about this sort of thing - making the jewelry was time well spent, as it gives me more stock for the next show (though I didn't get to try out my idea for an eye-catcher).

So I did pastels ... interesting to see how the same colors have a different effect according to the weave and the color distribution. The byzantine necklace on the left is made with square wire rings, whereas the chaos weave one on the right is made with round wire rings - the square wire has more reflective surfaces and so it glitters more.

And I had some interesting glass pendants to play with ...

I'm delighted to have found these large metal beads again - they go perfectly with the aluminum rings!


The box chain uses as much as 50% more rings than some of the other chains because the weave is tight.

And this flat weave is very elegant ...

A friend of mine who has done all the color training tells me that purple is a color that most people can wear, and I love all the colors that it mixes with.

And finally, there is always something new to play with! The idea for this one has been lurking in the back of my mind for a while. It's a simple chain with larger square wire rings linked through chain links, in a mix of colors. When I finished one "layer" of colored rings, I wondered what I would get if I picked up the alternate chain links and added another layer - and here's what happened!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Thinking about Bill

From time to time, people ask me to restring a necklace and, in the process, to redesign it - the French call this "re-looking" (the word applies to any "redo", whether clothing, furnishings, or whatever). It's something I enjoy doing, because usually the pieces are old and I get a chance to handle interesting beads from another era or culture. And because I'm working with someone specific in mind, it provides an opportunity to reflect on that person while I work.

So a friend asked me to restring a necklace that her husband Bill had made for her. The clasp was scratching her, making the necklace uncomfortable to wear. As long as I was doing that, she wanted to add some silver beads to the mix; at the same time, there were design elements, like double strands in places, that she particularly liked and wanted to keep.

Bill died two years ago. I didn't know him as much as I would have liked. I only knew him at group gatherings, where he didn't say much but didn't miss much either. I knew from things that my friend told me in passing that Bill was competent in whatever he undertook to do, that he had an artistic bent, and that he was very manual.

The necklace arrived in the mail, and I unwrapped it. Old Indian trade beads were the focus, a real treat for me, since it was the first time I had ever handled any. And what a surprise! Bill and I were kindred spirits in the design department: what I like to call a studied asymmetry. His color sense was very appealing, particularly the little touches of blue. I too liked his double strands - they added texture to the piece. Furthermore, Bill's stringing technique was excellent, and the problem with the clasp he would have fixed with just a little snip of his wire cutters if he were still alive.

After Bill died, I learned more about him. He was a real cowboy who made his own way in the world, doing construction and wood-working along the way. This led to an encounter with an artist from whom he took lessons, where he met his future wife. They were married in six weeks and were together almost 50 years when he died. During those 50 years, they developed an eclectic assortment of interests, from Indian arts to travel to poodles. I think everything they did together was an adventure shared and a richer experience because of it.

For this necklace, I wanted to leave the essence of Bill, his design, and his work, so I decided to restring it in pretty much the same way he had, simply replacing some of the beads with silver ones. I also wanted to make sure that all the original beads in the necklace were returned to my friend, because Bill chose them for her, so I used the ones I took out of the necklace to make a pair of earrings in somewhat of an Indian style, and the few that remained ended up on a small ring with fillers to use on a keychain or as an amulet or however she would like.

I can see Bill clearly in my mind: wiry, weathered, in jeans, smoking a cigarette. And under my fingers, I was able to touch a little of Bill, connecting just a bit to his artistic spirit. I couldn't do much for my friend when Bill died - there are thousands of miles between us geographically. But at least I could give her back Bill's necklace ready to wear again - I think Bill would approve of my work.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Interesting Chains

A client asked me to make something like a photo she showed me ... of course I can't ever do exactly that, but it was a good place to start. The concept was a chain with big links that had bigger links threaded through two other links in random places. The client wanted to have beads added to her chain, and she wanted it to be 75cm long (a sautoir). We looked at what I had in the way of dark gray beads and settled on hematite in different shapes. And then I started to play ...

I made the first chain with medium links and divided it into parts. Then the hematite beads needed to be prepared - I wanted to make sure they would stay put, which meant a wrapped loop at the end of each bead. I put the beads and chain together and realized that the beads were too small for the link size of the chain. SO I selected larger beads and did another round of wrapped loops (NOT my favorite task). At the same time, I decided to make the chain longer so that it could be easily worn doubled. I added bigger links in black ice and found just enough smaller ones to use them too. As a finishing touch, we chose a hematite pendant to attach to one end, so that it could be worn in the front as a pendant.

And I still had the smaller hematite beads, so I constructed a chain with smaller links and only the bigger dark gray accent links. The clasp for both of these necklaces is a big lobster clasp which blends right in with the chain, making it easy to wear it in front, including in a Y configuration. (I first tested it with a hook clasp, but when the pendant was worn in the front, the hook wouldn't stay closed.)


This one is shorter, but it still has the choices of pendant, no pendant, and Y form. All of this was for a special order ... now I'm going to make one for myself, but it will be multi-colored (what a surprise!).

Saturday, April 11, 2015

So what's new?

Sometimes wacky is the way to go ... with a large quantity of diamond-shaped beads in four colors, I thought it would be fun to do one necklace with two color schemes - the same bead shape throughout makes it hang together (so to speak ... ). So this is a 60" necklace: half is red and very pale pink and half is blue and barely tinted clear. And here are all the things you can do with it: 
*wear it double - it looks like you're wearing two
*wear it triple - it hangs well and has body
*wear it single - with a knot in the middle, it looks like something a flapper would have worn
Since no necklace is perfect with every outfit, how about one that will adapt at least three ways!


And in the chain mail department ... I was very excited to be able to find metal beads in geometric shapes - it's been about 20 years since I last saw these. They go wonderfully well with chain mail - they make a great focal point. (One of my Christmas clients had me add a triangular bead in the same style to her chaos weave necklace - it looked great!)