Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Shop Small...Small Business Saturday is November 24th!

By now, your e-mail inbox has probably been inundated to the max with Black Friday “special deals.”  If fact, online Black Friday deals are already starting - and it’s only Tuesday! And, some in-store Black Friday deals are starting as early as 8:00 Thanksgiving night at some major retailers! This MAY seem like a good thing on the surface, but the display of corporate and personal greed has really gotten out of hand, and as a result, the holiday season is really starting to lose its joy and true meaning.

I could go on a lengthy tirade about how many things are so very wrong about the crazy Black Friday scenarios, but it’s the beginning of the holiday season and I want to head in a more positive and festive direction.

There is a new and wonderful phenomenon that is sweeping the nation: Small Business Saturday, which this year is being celebrated on Saturday, November 24. While corporate retail giants do play an important role in all of our lives, and so many people do enjoy the "thrill of the hunt" on Black Friday, it's the small, local businesses that create the cozy atmosphere and special environment we all love about our hometowns.

American Express has partnered with small businesses, and as a team we are working together to promote Shop Small. American Express has special offers for its customers that support small businesses, and many small businesses are running a variety of special promotions to show their appreciation for your support. You can easily find out which of your local small businesses are participating by visiting the www.ShopSmall.com website.

At Artful Beads, we are celebrating Small Business Saturday by offering 15% off almost everything in the store, along with fun Make-N-Take projects and having lots of home baked goodies to enjoy while browsing and beading!

Whether it's a hardware store, a food market, an artisan, or a bead shop, all of these local small businesses are special and unique, and they offer services, products, knowledge, and customer care that you will rarely - if ever - find in a corporate giant. It is important that we ALL work together to support and preserve all theses little gems that are tucked away in our communities. If we lose them, we also lose a huge part of who we are.

Please Shop Small, not only on Small Business Saturday, but throughout the entire year.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Incredible World of Ammonites

I have always been fascinated by fossils, and once I discovered ammonites, I feel like I’ve been possessed with fossil fever. Their natural and unusual shapes, colors and sizes create endless opportunities for a variety of one-of-a-kind fossils.


Ammonites got their name from the Egyptian God Ammon, the God of life and procreation, who is often depicted with Rams’ horns behind each ear. The fossil was considered Ammon’s stone, thus inheriting the name. The snail-like spiral curl is the most recognizable attribute of ammonite fossils. To me, that curl is the factor that draws my interest to those seemingly moving fossils.

It is believed that ammonites were free-swimming mollusks living around the same time that dinosaurs walked the earth, and disappearing during the same extinction event. They grew in a range of sizes from a couple of centimeters to over three feet in diameter. How fascinating is it to look at those tiny ammonites and see the amount of detail preserved for all those years.

 Ammonites were pushed up to the surface or washed out into rivers. There is much fascination with these fossils, and some folk lore attributes health, prosperity and good luck to the fossils. Those who believe in the metaphysical aspects of stones, hold that these fossils change negativity into smoothly flowing energy. I don’t claim to be a believer of such qualities, but I do feel a strong attraction to those spiraling chambers, some of which can hold a variety of calcified and colorful remains.


Ammonite fossils are usually cut in half and polished to a high shine on the cut side. The inner sections resemble a nautilus and are often filled with minerals and sometimes druze (crystallized) pockets. The exterior surface sometimes has an iridescent sheen in red, green or amber colors. The underside is usually rounded where it is removed from the stone in which it had fossilized. I love ammonite pendants that have holes drilled across the top because you have access to the under side to enjoy the beauty it brings, and not just the polished smooth inner surface.

While it is said that ammonites are found in every country, there is an abundant amount found in Madagascar, in Africa. Many of the fossils we have found in our travels to the Tucson Gem and Mineral shows have been from Madagascar. However, this supply may be short-lived and it’s only a matter of time before they become scarce and harder to find. This thought sends panic through my body, but I console myself by remembering all the beautiful specimens in my personal collection!

Along with uses such as bead embroidery, wire wrapping, cuff links, I have even seen the larger sizes used as paperweights, sculptures, and objects for home or office decorating. This fascinating remnant of earth’s past living creatures is sure to spark your interest too!


Monday, September 24, 2012

A Few Thoughts on Clasps...

Clasps are often the “forgotten design element” in a piece of jewelry, but I'm here today to change that thinking!  While clasps serve a vital function in jewelry, they are also an intrinsic part of a piece’s style, and shouldn’t be overlooked as far as design goes. So, I’m going to spend a little time talking about how clasps are much more than a mechanical device, about how beautiful they can be, and how selecting the right claps really “completes” a piece.

When we teach classes, one of our goals is to encourage students to consider the clasp as more than just a fastener; that it is an integral component in the overall design of the piece. Sometimes this means using a traditional, simple lobster claw that disappears into the design of the piece, sometimes the clasp should be a decorative component that flows effortlessly in to the design and style of the piece, and sometimes it means that the clasp serves as an eye-catching focal point that the entire piece is designed around!

When selecting a clasp, the main things to think about are the general style and scale of what you are trying to achieve: Are you designing a very delicate necklace? Is it a chunky bracelet loaded up with all sorts of colorful beads? Is it a finely detailed fabric of woven beads? These are just a few possible questions you may want to ask yourself; needless to say, just like the world of beads, the world of jewelry design is endless. These sample questions give you a starting point of what you’ll want to consider when selecting your clasp.

For example, if you’re creating a piece that is simple and sleek, such as a single bead pendant that is dropping off a thin chain, then a small, plain lobster claw is one of the best options for your clasp, because it will disappear into the background, and not overpower the rest of the piece.

However, if your piece is comprised of heavier, chunkier beads, then a decorative toggle clasp, box clasp, or s-hook would be a more suitable closure. In these instances, the clasp becomes part of the design itself, and flows seamlessly with the rest of the piece.

You wouldn’t want to use a simple lobster claw here, because that natural flow of your beadwork would be interrupted; something just wouldn’t seem “right”, visually. At the same time, while decorative, the clasp in this case does not command the front-and-center spotlight.

Yet another great design option is using buttons as your clasp. Buttons work beautifully as closures on anything from wide beadeweaving projects to the popular wrap bracelets, and just about anything in between!

Using buttons for clasps really opens up a wide world, because they come in so very many styles, ranging from simple and understated to extremely elaborate; there are artisan buttons, glass buttons, clay buttons, manufactured buttons, antique buttons...the list goes on and on! Having so many options available makes it very easy to match a button to your piece.

But, there are times when the clasp itself IS the “wow” point of the piece. These types of clasps are really exciting to work with, as they provide you with a fresh new perspective on design! When the clasp is the focal point, everything else included in the piece is selected accordingly. And, when you look at such a piece of jewelry, you really don’t even see the clasp; all you see is endlessly stunning beauty.

As you can see, there are lots of things to consider when choosing a clasp. Clasps must be sturdy, strong, reliable, and funtctiona - but that doesn’t mean they can’t be a gorgeous component of your piece as well! The options avialable for clasps are virtually endless, so be sure to put as much thought into the style of your clasp as you do in the rest of your piece, and you will be thrilled with the results!


Monday, September 10, 2012

Adventures in Contrast...

Glass Pearls, Crystals, Antique Skeleton Keys,
and Hanforged Copper Chain
What do you think of when you hear the word “contrast”? I bet the first thing that popped into your mind was how colors contrast with each other. And, of course, that is a very valid definition for the term.

But contrast runs far beyond color. Personally, I thrive on playing with contrasting materials. I enjoy wearing pretty, frilly tops with “distressed” (ie, holey!!) jeans and rugged riding boots.
Crystal Cupchain, Faceted Fire Polished Beads, Heat-Treated
Copper, Handmade Brass Beads on Waxed Cotton
And, when it comes to jewelry, I love working sparkly, refined crystals and glass pearls together with rustic cords and hand-forged metals. Or, I’ll pick a pair of crystal earrings – you know, the kind you’d normally wear to a formal event - to wear with those holey jeans and rugged boots. I find the play between these sorts of materials to be so visually pleasing, satisfying, and – truth be told – empowering, because it’s verging on being rebellious. And this form of rebellion is probably the most fun, because it’s subtle – it keeps people guessing about you and your personal style!


I like to encourage my customers to take a walk down the adventurous road of contrasting materials. There is so much exploring to do, so many materials to work with, and when it comes to jewelry, there’s a reason we’re into making it ourselves rather than buying it at generic chain departments stores: because we, as bead people, have a unique sense of style, and we have a need to express it in our own way. By working contrasting and unexpected materials together into a single piece, you are busting your beading world wide up…you’ve just magnified the possibilities manifold!

Vintage Glass Pearls, Handforged Silver Rings, Faceted
Green and Red Garnet, and Hilltribe Silver

If you’re not used to working in contrasting materials, finding a starting point can seem intimidating, but it’s not…really, I promise! The first suggestion I always make to people is to stop thinking all together, and just “do”. I’ve found that the more I think about something, the harder it becomes, the less inspired it is, and I generally don’t end up loving the results. Some of my most favorite projects (and outfits) have come together in a very brief time frame.

Glass Pearls Overwrapped With Sterling Wire,
Handforged Silver Rings

Yes, it seems counter-productive to NOT put much thought into a project, but give it a try! I’m betting you’ll be thrilled with the results…with both your finished piece of jewelry, and the liberation you’ll feel from just letting your mind run free. It's not something we get to do very often in life, so we might as well grab a little fun anywhere we can!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Hottest Color Trends For Fall 2012

“By playing to consumers’ practical side with versatile neutrals, and boosting their confidence with bold, spirited hues, this skillfully balanced palette has something for everyone.”  ~ Leatrice Eiserman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute. 

Twice a year the Pantone Color Institute delivers a palette of delicious colors that correspond to the current trends in the fashion industry.  Many designers will use this palette as inspiration or a reference point when designing their collection for the season.  This way they know that each customer will be able to match the designer’s newest pieces with the wardrobe they already own.  The Pantone colors for Fall 2012 are French Roast, Honey Gold, Pink Flambe, Tangerine Tango, Ultramarine Green, Bright Chartreuse, Olympian Blue, Titanium, Rhapsody, and Rose Smoke.  They have named Tango Tangerine the hottest color trend of the fall season.  It is a bright, fun color and a great transition from summer into the cooler weather season. 

Amongst the list of colors it is divided by Neutrals and Bolds.  French Roast, Honey Gold, Titanium, Rhapsody, and Rose Smoke are among the neutrals with Pink Flambe, Tangerine Tango, Ultramarine Green, Bright Chartreuse, and Olympian Blue as the bolder, brighter accent colors.  In your clothing use the neutrals as the backdrop for your outfit.  Pair a chocolate brown pencil skirt with a peach blouse or shell.  Add an emerald green blazer or cardigan as your pop of color or accent.  You can splurge a little on that “one” great piece for the season and compliment that with neutral bottoms and tops.  Add a chunky tangerine necklace or big chandelier earrings to highlight the peach and contrast with the emerald.  For a more casual look following the same trend wear a pair of eggplant skinny jeans with a long rose tunic and the same emerald blazer jacket.  Throw on brass bangles or hoop earrings to compliment the warmth of the rose and make the green stand out.  Buy a couple bold accessories for the season such as a belt, jacket, shoes or a bag to wear with the browns and neutrals already in your wardrobe.  Use nail polish to add a pop of color to your outfit; especially a color that you wouldn’t necessarily wear in clothing.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What is your favorite bead weaving stitch?

A collection of simple Right Angle Weave bracelets.
I love bead weaving, and in my travels through the various stitches, I always seem to come back to Right Angle Weave (RAW). Whenever I teach a RAW project, if I make a point to state that it is RAW, inevitably I will hear from someone, "Oh no, I can't do RAW!”, or “I hate RAW!" Panic sets in, and I see fear in their eyes!

Beaded beads created with 3-dimensional Right Angle Weave.

Now I just start teaching the project step by step, and leave out the fact that they are learning RAW. Don't you know, they are able to learn and complete the project?!?!


I find RAW lends itself so well to creating a fabric that is lacy and fluid when done with seed beads. When using fire polished crystals, it becomes strong and can act as a platform for many different methods of surface embellishment and layering. RAW can act as a "bridge" between components when figuring out how they will connect.

A stunning bracelet created with a seed bead Right Angle Weave base.

Each time I think I have exhausted the uses for RAW, I discover a new and exciting application for this very "dreaded" stitch! I encourage you to dive into Right Angle Weave and see where it takes you, too!


Monday, August 6, 2012

Soutache Ribbon Stitching...Allow Your Imagination to Run Wild!!

Soutache is the latest rage to hit
Artful Beads! What is "soutache"?
Soutache (pronounced soo-tash)
is a narrow braid woven into a
herringbone pattern around two s
trands of piping inside the braid. 
It is sometimes referred to as
"Russian Braid". Soutache ribbon
is currently made out of polyester
and rayon, and it is available in
many colors, including metallic.

Soutache has been used since the
17th century as a trim for uniforms,
curtains and clothing.

There are two types of soutache braid: domestic and imported. Domestic (made in the USA) is narrower and has a tighter weave. Imported soutache is a bit wider and tends to fray when cut. It helps to use fray check or clear nail polish on the cut ends.

The art of soutache embroidery is a very free-form experience of constructing waves
of braid around beads and/or cabachons. The beads are actually sewn directly between layers of braid. The final piece can be left to show light through and be airy in appearance. Alternatively, stitching a backing in place, such as ultrasuede, helps to conceal any ends in the back, and give the piece a more finished look.

Some artists tend to work a
symmetrical design, while others
prefer an asymmetrical look. If
preferred, you can sketch the
design on paper first, and follow
by stitching the design with your
braid and beads. I prefer to work
“by the seat of my pants”, as they
say, and let the design take shape
as I stitch and fold and incorporate
beads. It’s exciting to watch something evolve into an elaborate design!

I hope you enjoy exploring this new avenue in the world of beading as much as I do!


Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Beauty of Czech Glass Beads

When I first started beading, way back when, it was a very different world than it is today. There was no internet or bead shows to easily track down unique beads, and the selection of Czech glass beads – at least from what I was finding - was limited to 3mm, 4mm, and 6mm round fire polished in the most basic of basic colors: ruby, emerald, amber, sapphire, and crystal.

While those beads where pretty in
their own way, they don’t hold a
candle to the stunning beauties
that are coming out of the Czech
Republic today! The finishes,
shapes, and colors are amazing,
and just when I think these beads
can’t get any more gorgeous, they
do! Not only have the fire polished
round and rondelle beads become
incredibly sophisticated, but there
are now many beads that are being
made using vintage molds.

I admit it: I am totally addicted to these vintage mold beads…I can’t have enough of them, and my stash is steadily growing out of control (is that really a BAD thing? I don’t think so!). The colors, the finishes, the textures…we are very lucky that someone decided to dust off these antique molds, and artists in the Czech Republic are designing these amazing new beads with an old-time feel.
It is definitely a very good time to be a beader!


Saturday, May 5, 2012

What makes a piece of jewelry a Statement Piece?

Check out the latest creation to emerge out of Artful Beads Studio...a pair of Wire Wrapped Gemstone Earrings.  The color palette is of Indian inspiration with the delicate gold wire and garnet gemstones accents.  A hint of green comes from a few tourmaline briolettes dangling softly from the wire.  I would absolutely throw these earrings on with a t-shirt and jeans for an afternoon out at a craft show or out to dinner.  I love a little sparkle as my accessory with jeans or a skirt.  The trend now is to wear Statement earrings with a bracelet and skip the necklace altogether.  It doesn't mean that the earrings have to be humongous gold hoops!  The bright color could be the statement that draws the eye and makes it stand out as an accessory.  The unusual design and shape of the earring can make it intriguing .  They don't have to be huge...they just have to be spectacular!  This style is trending from couture evening wear to career wear and everything in between.   Pair these earrings with a black dress for a cocktail party or a wedding and you won't need any other accessories!!