Sunday, 31 July 2011

Vaucresson rose necklace

In pretty much the last minute, I uploaded my entry in the Art Bead Scene monthly challenge for July. For a long time I couldn't think of what to do and figured I'd skip the challenge just as I've skipped or missed most challanges for months now. After playing with my stash or embroidery floss, yarn and ribbons this week, I finally got an idea last Friday: wouldn't it be a perfect opportunity to make a new ribbon flower pendant? I haven't made any for ages now and hopefully one will pass as an "art bead". The artwork that was the theme of the month, Morning in the Garden at Vaucresson by Edouard Vuillardit,  features some lovely white and pink roses that seemed perfect to translate into ribbon roses.

Bias cut silk ribbon is pretty flimsy so the flowers you make are very delicate. Just like the flowers in the paintings (though I admit in jewellery "delicate" and "flimsy" are not normally properties you strive after as it makes the piece difficult to use without damaging). I used hand-dyed pink and grey ribbon for the petals and then stitched the rose to a old rose ox dapped filigree. The metal adds some needed weight, makes it easy to attach bails or jump rings and protect the flower from some of the wear and tear.

The rose pendant is made from hand dyed bias cut silk ribbon, mounted on a piece of filigree. The necklace chain is made from space-dyed viscose gimp that I stitched into a three-strand necklace and added linen thead on which I knotted vesuvianite chips and yellow "jade" beads. It's a pretty simple necklace, which is of cause due to me getting the idea so late and finishing the flower even later (petals are easy to stitch, tricky to puzzle together to make flowers). That's the real reason, but it also makes the necklace look like the rose bush in the painting where the flowers sit on winding branches with few leaves.

From the palette I choose just to work with the pinks and greens with a hint of yellow, omitting the periwinkle/mauve/greyish blue tones eventhough I liked what they added to it. If I'd come up with my idea earlier perhaps I'd have time to think of a good way to use them, but of cause I had to come up with a last minute idea and had to think of a design on the top of my head.

Instead of the dull and simplistic collage I ended up uploading on Flickr, I initially wanted to make an inspiring and beautiful etc etc collage incorporating the painting that inspired the necklace, but I just couldn't make something nice today. This is what I ended up with and I'm adding it here more just to show the painting I'm speaking of than to show a good jewellery collage.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Red poppy (WIP)

I haven't blogged in a few days now. Mostly it's because I haven't been that much online (which is also the reason I still have unanswered e-mails in my inbox and haven't been active at all on forums lately). I do have a lot of flower photos I want to show, but none of the pics are edited yet -- and I still have pics from May that I wanted to blog about but never got around to *sigh* -- so in the meanwhile you'll have to do with this little felted poppy.

I didn't originally intend to make a poppy. It all started when I saw a multi-coloured hand-felted piece of, well, felt in a craft magazine. I thought a melange cloth like that could make an interesting background for embroidery. A hazy landscape, perhaps, or a green meadow to fill with flowers. Perhaps I should make a few felts myself, I thought, using different coloured rovings. Not that I've really wetfelted anything before (and no more skilled when it comes to needle felting).

I think it was my lack of experience that made me think "what if I don't felt the whole thing, but just add wool to a piece of ready-made felt?" That would be easier, just needle felting on a finished surface. I have some red wool I bought at a sale (part of a christmas ornament kit, I believe) and I have scraps of felt. First I tried just to attach the wool to a piece of heavy synthetic hobby felt, which was at most a partial success, but then I tried the Nepalese felt scraps, 100 % fair trade wool, instead. Worked much better.

This is my second go at needlefelting so I think I can be reasonably pleased with the result. It was just a "blob" to begin with, but then the shape began to remind me of a flower so I kept working with that in mind and added a small piece of the black felt in the middle as stamen. And so my poppy was born. It'll probably become a brooch, I think. A relatively small brooch as the flower is approx. 3 cm wide. Not sure what to back it with (needs to be more rigid that it is right now) or how I want to edge it, but it should probably be kept clean and simple to really put the focus on the dramatic colours and the shape of the poppy.

I also made this 12 mm heart. My intention was to make a five-petal flower, but when I added the second petal, it was clear that it wanted to become a heart. A slightly lopsided heart.

So that's one of the things I've been working on lately. I keep having ideas, but it's frustrating not to be able to test them all as I lack supplies and it's likewise frustrating that sometimes the ideas are just "loose ends" that I don't seem to be able to work into projects and finished pieces of jewellery. But at the same time it beats having no ideas at all.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Clay and I

I'm not sure what it is with me and clay. I kind of like the idea of working with it, but when I have it I end up not doing that much with it. Be it a lack of inspiration or lack of the proper tools, I just don't seem to be able to do anything good with it. Part of me says it's because I'm no good at moulding and sculpting. Let's face it: I've always spent more time painting and embroidering, working with flat images. Sometimes dimensional, but rarely in "full 3D" as you -- most of the time -- do with clay. So maybe I'm just supposed to admire ceramics and other clay artists rather than work with it myself. Perhaps, eventhough I wish it was otherwise, clay -- of any kind -- just isn't my thing.

Let's review it. When I first heard about silver clay as a newbie beader and jewellery maker, I was really interested, but like many things it fizzled out. I didn't have the money to buy everything you needed and the clay itself was expensive. I'd printed a lot of how-tos from the Net and even got a book, but to this day I've never touched it. I became very dedicated, as I always do when I hear about something new and interesting that I want to know more about. For example, I spent months reading photo mags, learning about cameras and photo editing, before deciding which camera to buy. I can spend days researching a feature for Manekis Pärlblogg. If something catches my interest, I easily become that way. It can be a good thing, but sometimes I have to tell myself to stop and think it over so it doesn't just end up being a matter of acting on any whim I get flipping through a bead mag or reading about jewellery techniques/media/products online. Because that doesn't work in the long run.

So I didn't act on that first crush I got on metal clay. My wallet thanked me and I found new things that seemed to be a better match for me when it came to jewellery making. Then I got to see the artsy side of polymer clay. I grew up with Fimo and Cernit. It was clays for children to make cute and childish sculptures, beads and more with. Then I saw what kind of stuff adults could make of it. Sofisticated jewellery and effects that couldn't be replicated using ceramic clay. (Now, ceramic clay I had used before as a kid in school and children's art classes -- pretty ugly things, but in the eyes of a child they were fantastic.) So I read all I could about PC as a bead making medium and bought clay, glitters, Deco Gel etc. Did a few things -- including some fun mirror-image beads -- but found it probably wasn't really my thing. At least I didn't find inspiration to work with clay and it was hard to find the time to sit down in the kitchen and claim the oven for my beads and pendants. Sold off some of the clay and glitters, but still have some left. Can't sell it all if inspiration strikes: after all, one day I'll probably get an idea that requires PC.

What happened then? Because we both know that's not the end of the story. No, cue base metal clays. Ah, I love base metals! Much more than I've ever cared for silver. And here they came. First bronze clay. Then copper clay and last but not least steel clay. Oh, these are so cool. I want to work with them and they brought back some of the things I felt when I first read about silver clay. They rekindled my love of metal clay. But they require special equipment and are even more cumbersome than silver clay to fire. The price of it all makes me hesitate: what if it all just ends up like with the polymer clay? Though I've got ideas for these clays -- carving molds for pendants rather than sculpting -- I fear it'll all be a lot of money for a small output. But steel clay... I want it so badly...

Now, is that the end of it then? No, recently I've gotten an interest in resin (epoxy) clays and Fuwa fuwa, japanese paper clay. Like with PC it doesn't require a lot of equipment and cumbersome firing. In fact, it doesn't require that one thing that was partially responsible for me not working with my polymer clays: an oven. These are air-dry clays. Ok, there are two problems: paper clay has interesting textures -- perfect for Swiss rolls and similar miniature cakes for kawaii charms -- but it needs to be sealed to withstand moisture in the long run. And I generally don't know how durable it is. And resin clay can be very sticky. And I know things like that can have a -- a-hum -- negative effect on my mood if things start to go wrong.

So that's where I stand right now. I know I haven't exactly shown that I'm any good at working with clay, though I thing part of it has been that I either haven't found the right clay techniques for me (or the right type of clay) or that I haven't had the space and equipment to work with clay when I've had the desire to dabble in the medium. So one voice in my heads keeps saying "resin clay looks cool and useful, I should try it", while another voice is just telling me " yeah, right, it'll just end up like with the polymer clay, much ado about nothing".

If I have the money I probably will buy some resin clay (or putty) at least. It seems like a lot of fun and it can be used in so many ways compared to many other clays, seeing how it can be both a clay and an adhesive. The rest will have to wait. Even it I want to dabble in it, I will not buy any other clay until I've got some actual ideas about how I want to use it. Not just one or two, but a handful of good ideas worth the investment (of money and time) in yet another material. Sensible. Not fun -- I'd love to be rich enough to follow all my creative whims -- but sensible.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Recipe: Raspberry squares

 July means that the trees and bushes are turning red with berries: raspberries, red currant, sour cherries. Since a few years back, every time the raspberries have ripened I make these squares. This is a pretty popular recipe. I googled sega hallonrutor, which is what they're called in Sweden and got over 2 000 hits. Not wonder as the recipe is very yummy and super simple -- making it perfect for baking together with kids as you just stir rather than whisk the batter.

The cake is chewy, slightly similar to mud cakes in texture but drier, with a sugary crisp crust, interspersed with raspberries. I use our wild (probably more feral than wild, really) raspberries, but you could also use fresh or frozen cultivated raspberries or other berries, e.g. blueberries. Originally, almond flakes are sprinkled over the cake, but I rarely use that.

And just a final note before I give you the recipe: As with all cake recipes, it can be a bit tricky "translating" it. Wheat flour isn't milled the same way around the world and the difference in density means that by following the same recipe, the cake can get different texture and density in different countries. That's what I've heard, at least. So I can just hope that this recipe will work out for you. If not, try to experiment by adding less or more flour.

Föredrar du recept som inte är på engelska? Jag har också skrivit ned receptet här på svenska.

Raspberry Squares


200 gram butter or margarine
6 dl sugar (you can omit ½-1 dl if it's too sweet for you; really depends on the berries)
4 eggs
6 dl wheat flour
1 tsp vanilla sugar
2-3 dl raspberries (fresh or frozen)
Almond flakes (optional)

Preheat the oven to 175° C -- I believe that's something like 347° F -- and line a sheet pan with paper.

Melt the butter in a saucepan or saucepot (large enough to mix the batter in, say 2 litres). Let the butter cool slightly and stir down sugar, egges, flour and vanilla sugar. You can use a sieve to keep the flour from forming lumps that are hard to get rid of. Stir into a smooth batter, making sure you don't "over-work" it.

Spread the batter in the pan and sprinkle the berries and, if you choose to use it, the almond flakes over it. Bake in the middle of the oven for approximately 30 minutes. You want it to get a nice mild golden colour -- the cake will remain fairly pale. Remove the cake from the pan, placing it on the kitchen counter, and then put the pan as a lid over the cake. Let it cool this way.

When the cake is cold, cut into squares and remove from the paper. They will stick somewhat to the paper, that's how it should be. Store in a tin/jar with waxed paper between each layer of sqaures to prevent them from sticking to each other. The raspberry squares can be frozen: in fact, if you don't plan on eating them all within a day or two it's better to put them in the freezer or the berries can become dry.


That above is one of our "raspberry patches". As you can see, an unruly patch of runaway raspberry shrubbery rather than a nice row of cultivated bushes. The other patch is on the concrete walkway by the old dunghill. That's growing in the cracks in the concrete, not on the ground or the old dung heap, which would seem much more fecund.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Inspiration can be everywhere

Yes, you can find inspiration in everything. It's just as much about yourself -- the way you look at something and the mood you're in -- as the object you're looking at whether or not you find inspiration in the things around you. In this case maybe it wasn't surprising the everyday object in question would be inspirational. After all it's designed to be looked at and if not admired so at least liked. Liked enought to attract potential buyers. I really like the black against that special warm vanilla beige. The colour might not look that special, not even to me at times, but there's something about these boxes that attracts me and makes me want to save them when I buy them.

It's not just that I love the vanilla liquorice pastilles inside. Which I do -- heck, just seeing it and writing about it makes me crave vanilla liquorice! No, it's something about the colours and design. It's something about the old-fashioned elegance of the black and beige. I'm thinking vintage couture, Paris, 1950's ladies' garments (Jackie Kennedy) but also the era between the wars. Something slightly art deco about it perhaps. I have a hate-love relationship with art deco -- a style that never really became popular in Sweden in the days. And the 50's are rarely my cup of tea. But still, there's something in the clean, almost strict, design and colours that keep attracting me. And make me think I ought to do something inspired by the box.

But what? It's not really my style, not at all. I like nature-inspired and dark romanticism. Not Chanel No. 5 and pillbox hats. Nor is the style pre-dating that, the flapper girl era. This is straight lines, couture, elegant ladies and... and... And still, it inspires me. I don't know where to start, but clean lines seems to be my guideline. That much I know.

What do you think? Can I make a piece of jewellery inspired by a box of vanilla liquorice pastilles? I'm not sure myself. Maybe it's not meant to inspire me, just meant to be admired and appreciated by me. Just because you like something doesn't mean it must inspire your own work. Maybe I should just leave it at that. I don't know, but writing all this I more and more feel like that's how it should be. At least for now.


Footnote: Never heard of Ga-Jol? It's a Danish brand of pastilles that I really like, especially the pure liquourice (ren lakrids) and vanilla (bourbon vanilje) versions. They have a website -- in Danish -- here.

Monday, 11 July 2011

We've got kittens

These little ones were born some time before Midsummer's Eve, but I didn't want to show any pics before it was properly decided that we should keep them. We already have eight cats so three more? Of cause we've had over a dozen cats many times, but still: it's a stress on an already tight budget. My sis, however, refused to even consider not keeping them. So here we are. One farm, eleven cats. (And, no, they don't all get along -- luckily they've got a lot of space.)

They don't have any names yet. I just call them One, Two and Three. One is the one with the largest white streak on the face, sitting in the middle in the photo above. Two is the "copy" with a similar but more narrow streak (right). Three is the one with the white dot on the nose (left).

That's one of the kittens, sleeping in the paws of his older bother, Knatti. They were so cute -- and I really annoyed them using the flash (notice Knatti's eye, he's not happy about this). Still, the little one slept right through the photo session. The big brother wasn't at all fond of the kitties at first -- not least since their protective mum attacked him unprovoced. She did that to all of the cats, but he didn't like being treated like that by his own mummy. No wonder... Well, now she's less protective -- she doesn't even care if they fall down the stairs anymore -- and Knatti has learnt that kittens can be fun, both to watch and to play with. And he loves to cuddle up and sleep together with them.

And this is the kittens' uncle Randi. It was a very warm and humid day so he didn't seem to care that one kitty slept on his tale and the other one on his butt. Like Knatti, he likes to be around them and the kittens like to sleep close to him. (Yes, that orange bedspread is ugly -- from the good ol' 70's I reckon -- but it's good to have something you're not that fond of to cover the duvet covers that you are fond of when you have outdoor cats.)

No pic of mummy, Ninjis, here, but I've got one in this post.  And there's another one od her and Randi as kittens here.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Embellished hama-ami motifs

I keep rummaging through my saved photos. These two little floral motifs are a couple of little beaded things I found among the files. Above is a simple five-petal hana-ami motif with a beaded outline, made using 4 mm round beads and 11/0 Toho seed beads.Use six beads/"petals" and you get a flat flower, use five and you get a more dimensional motif. How dimensional depends on the shape and size of the beads of cause.

This is a puffy hana-ami motif (a doubled version of the first one) made using 6 mm round beads. I did quite a few back when I happened to mention these on a beading forum and many of the other (seed)beaders got hooked on making these. The basic version, that is, not this one where I've added 4 mm rounds and seed beads between each section.

I think I like the small flower "button" better than the chubby snowflake. But you have to try all versions you come up with, don't you? (Granted, I don't have to blog about the ones I'm not satisfied with, but somehow I feel it's just more honest to show some of them too when I make a summary of my experiments... A full sampler, including both successful and failed versions. And if nothing else it might deter others from making the same mistakes I did.)

To read more about "puffy hana-ami motifs" (hana-amipuffar), se my earlier post, which has links to tuts.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Just wanted to say...

As I've taken a summer break from my other blog, I won't be doing any regular bead blog recaps, but if you want some tips on current contests/competitions and challenges, I've recently written two posts on the subject. Most of them are American or British or have contest/challenge info written in English -- and are open  internationally. You can find the posts here:

Contests and competition (new plus summary of older still current contests)

Challenges (weekly, monthly etc)

If you know of any more bead/jewellery challenges or contests -- ideally those open to Swedes as they are the target group for the blog -- I'd love to know. Just write a comment or e-mail me any tips you have.

Friday, 1 July 2011

My rivoli coating experiment


This is the first pics of my latest experiment that I've been meaning to do for months now, doing my own coatings on rivolis inspired by the many custom coatings available. It's not that easy to find unfoiled rivolis to work with, but eventually I found a couple.

For this first test I used a clear 18 mm rivoli that I painted with size -- an adhesive for leaf metal -- on one side and covered with a variegated leaf metal in gold with pink and orange heat patina. Like with my butterfly, this leaf didn't come as a sheet, but nor flakes either. Rather something in between: a sheet crammed into a small container that crumbled and shred it. So I couldn't make a really smooth coating.

One thing I worried about was whether or not the gilding would look good through the crystal as that's how it's supposed to be view, as a coating applied to the back of the crystal seen through it. As you can see the brush strokes in the size are unfortuneatly visible. Don't know if I can eliminate the problem in my next rivoli by pressing the leaf harder to the crystal or if I should use resin instead of traditional size. After all, size is usually applied to an opaque surface and not meant to be seen. On the other hand, the streaking is more apparent in the photos as they magnify all the details the eye would otherwise not see.

I also had to add some more leaf to areas that became scratched when brushing the metal. Especially the culet is tricky -- I know that from my professionally coated rivolis too: it wears down easily. After leaving it overnight, I applied a sealant both to keep the metal from tarnishing and to protect the delicate gilding. I will add more coats later.

This was my first test and it has flaws -- like the only partially covered girdle, the scratching, transferring size from my fingers to the front of the crystal etc. I have learnt from it and it has far from deterred me from using the rest of my unfoiled rivolis. One thing I'll make for next time is some sort of holder for the crystal so I can have both my hand free and hopefully that'll also help me avoid getting adhesive and foil to the wrong side of the crystal. Some sort of putty would probably be useful.

I also took the opportunity to foil one of my tumbled glass pebbles, as you can see above. The flat back makes it much easier to apply the leaf metal to this "cabochon" than to a faceted crystal stone. Here I used a leaf metal similar to the one above, but with blue and green patterns instead of the rose version above. The matte surface and golden foiling gives it a soft, warm glow. This was my best pic, but it doesn't really do it justice (I keep saying that about almost all my photos...).

Metallic butterfly wings

This little critter is an Arte Metal decorivet by Vintaj that I got as part of the delicious beady mail I got when winning the Rings & Things blog partner drawing this spring. If you want to see what it looked like before I altered it -- forgot to take a pic myself -- you can find a photo here.

Inspired by a keum-boo butterfly, I wanted to add a mottled effect to the wings using leaf metal flake. Leaf metal often comes in sheets, but flakes are -- as the name inplies -- a blend of different types/colours of leaf metal in small flakes. They are sold in different colour combination and here I choose to use one with purple and rose flakes on top of the gold, silver and copper ones. That is gold- and silver-coloured copper, not precious leaf metal.

Compared to working with sheets, it's very easy to "gild" a surface using flakes. For a mottled effect like this one you just simply dip the surface -- painted with size -- into the flakes, let it dry a little and brush of excess metal with a soft brush before letting it set completely. If you don't like the result, add size to points you like to cover with a different colour flakes and either dip again or apply single flakes to the spots using a soft, dampened brush.

The butterfly has tiny specks of leaf metal on the body. That's because I initially wanted to add foil to the bands across it, but didn't like the result so I scraped it off. You can't really see much of it IRL as the butterfly is smaller than in my photo, but I'll try and scrape some more off before sealing the gilding. Because it's copper-based, the leaf metal can easily tarnish unless coated.

Not my best work using leaf metal flakes, but a fun -- if slightly fiddly -- alternative to using paints, alcohol inks, gilder's paste and such.

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