Friday, January 8, 2010

Artfully Meandering: Learning New Stuff

I've been a little frustrated as I've started experimenting in new art mediums. All beginning work has been about making mistakes. I was much more forgiving when I started with glass. I worked at it for 6 months before I even tried selling. I feel like I'm starting over again. Lori, (An Artist's Year Off) you're keeping me inspired with your new blog as you experiment, too. I need to remember to give myself permission to make ugly things.

So, just for some visuals (not eye's too ugly), is the progress report. It's leading me to think of the potential opened up by exploring multi-media art. I'm thinking of my eventual goal: be able to make all of my jewelry completely from raw materials. Make my own head pins, clasps, beads, chain, and components.

Regarding the semi-precious gems, I haven't make a final decision on whether I will continue to use them in my multi-media work. I love the gems I find. I've found two stores in the wholesale district that have good deals on the semi-precious stones. Way fun! But, there's a certain element of excitement in having made the whole piece myself.

I am still making jewelry with the basics I learned at the beginning of my jewelry journey... stringing, wirework and chain. I have a huge batch of jewelry that I need to finish photo editing and will let you know when my Artfire store is updated.

Seed Beading

Seed beading had not caught my attention until I started reading Beverly Ash Gilbert's blog. Her approach of freeform bead weaving is what captivated me. Also, her approach to color and the depth of her jewelry pieces is so exciting. I snatched up her new book Beaded Colorways. I'll do a more in-depth review later. In the meantime, I've been itching to try the ideas in her book.

So. I hunted out a seed bead store in the wholesale district and bought a bunch of beads. They had needles and some kind of thread. But, it was the wrong thread. Below are my first three attempts at doing a Peyote stitch.

Argh. This thread is NOT going to work as it's called Crystal String or Wire or something like that. So, to practice, I'm just using regular sewing thread. The other thing I couldn't find was bees wax, which you would use to coat the thread. I may eventually find both components, but since I'm just learning, I'm not going to stress over it. I bought some candles to see if I could use the wax for coating the thread, but it's working good enough with the regular sewing thread. I'm enjoying beadweaving. Below is the larger beads in the peyote stitch and the second one is making my own bead color combo.

I wanted to play with creating a peyote pattern...kind of freefrom...I sketched out a flames / wave pattern and converted into an Excel spreadsheet pattern. I was attempting it, but I think I'm going to wait until I get better beads. I'm not liking the beads I bought. I've read about the Japanese seed beads and how they are well-made and consistent in size. I looked at Artbeads. Oh. My. I'm overwhelmed with the color and type selection. I still have huge stash of glass and I don't know if I'm staying in HK yet, so no bead investment for now. (With the glass, I didn't buy a kiln for a few months until I thought my beads were improving. I think I'll do the same with the bead weaving.)

Polymer Clay

I have a nice little stash of Sculpey clay. It's just the amateur stuff. At the beginning of "making-my-own-component" precipice, I investigated polymer clay versus lampwork because of the lower overhead and portability of clay. But, the torch won. I love that I can play with a torch and make pretty little glassy treasures. I had a little clay kit that I tried to make earrings and they were awful. So, the siren call of glass lured me and sucked me into it's vortex. But, clay is starting to take on a new excitement for me.

I was doing some Google searches on polymer clay and stumbled across this fabulous blog, Polymer Clay Daily, with jaw-dropping, uber-inspiring polymer clay art. Every post is very inspiring, but this one sparked the ideas in my head for inlaying polymer clay into silver clay. I have to admit, I haven't been wanting to play with silver clay. Two reasons: I had to figure out how to program my kiln (not easy to think under the waves of migraine and programming a stupid kiln was more than I could handle. I can barely speak English, let alone programmerish). Also, I was a little bored with the idea of silver. I know it's great for everyday. But, I'm a color addict. The fact that artists were combining silver with the bright, crazy colors of polymer clay has spun my brain off into a tizzy of ideas.

I found some YouTube videos on some basics techniques (making cane and creating the Skinner blend). I was able to duplicate some of the techniques to a fairly decent extent as a beginner. I even had a few pendants and one button that I was quite happy with. I had badly scorched my first beads in my kiln by accidentally setting it to Fahrenheit instead of Celsisus. Bad. So, I found a used toaster oven for $13.

I still scorched the pendants and button I liked.


I threw out the totally scorched (blackened) ones. Below is some of my early work with blending. These buttons were lightly burned as I experimented with the temperature setting of my toaster oven.

I finally figured out the right temperature. It runs about 10 degrees C hot. On the left is the very first ended up as a muddy green. To the right are some better blends. I'm going to play with clay tonight to see if I can get a little better. As well as programming my kiln for the silver clay.

Wire Wrapping

So, to make myself feel a little better, I thought I would improve my wire-wrapping skills. I've been looking through the tutorials on Jewelry Lessons. I already had one tutorial from Kristin Smith at KS Jewellery Designs for the flower tutorial. As you can see, I hade a few issues with the wire thickness. I started with too thick of wire, so I tried the thinner wire. It was turning out until one of the leaves turned brittle and broke. I'll have to search out the appropriate width wire. Someday. To the right is some more wire-wrapping that was a little more successful. I still need to create a matching earring for the spiral. The other two have mates and I'll be posting them in my store. (Sometime soon, provided my migraines stay away.)

Which leads me to some things I've figured out about why the art/craft scene is different here in Hong Kong, China than the US. I'll share those observations in a future post.

That wraps up today's tour of my adventures.


  1. Hey Jenn, wow you have been busy!

    I love reading Beverly's blog too but I'm not sure I have the patience for all those tiny beads. I think you've done a great job.

    I understand your dilemma about whether to use gemstones or not. I love gemstones but I don't have your talent with making beautiful glass beads - wish I did! I think you should use whatever you think fits the jewellery you want to make... but those that are entirely made by you will be even more special. I feel a bit the same when I use ready-made findings for some of my jewellery rather than ones I've made myself.

    Your polymer clay pieces look fun. I've not had a go with that yet but am in awe of those artists who create the most amazingly detailed beads.

    And your wire-wrapping... well, I hope you didn't swear too much when your flowers went wrong. I'm sorry you had trouble and feel responsible for that and hope you persevere with the wire flowers. The four petal flower looks good - is that the one with the brittle petal? Did you use sterling or craft wire? Craft wire is not good when hammered but sterling silver wire should hold up to hammering, as long as you don't hammer over any overlapping wires. If you use thicker gauge wire, I recommend making bigger flowers and using something like a pen as a dowel to shape the petals.

    I think your other earrings turned out fab - I particulary like the spiral one, that's a great design.

    Anyway, Happy New Year to you my friend and I look forward to seeing more of your jewellery pieces.
    Kristin :)

  2. Kristin - thanks so much for all the feedback! worries about the flower tutorial... there was no crankiness on my part. I expected some issues at the beginning as I was trying it out. Your tutorial is wonderful and I'm so excited I progressed as far as I did and made the flower look like yours. Unfortunately, the issues I have are with the nature of the art/craft environment here om HK. They use mm as a guage instead of the AWG. I did use sterling silver wire, but I think it might be 28 or 30 guage...too thin. I'm a little messy with my wire-wrapping in general and I've been wanted to become more refined. Your jewelry is so pretty and refined and your tutorial was easy to's me that needs more practice. I'm going to try again with the thicker wire and the pen dowel. I think that will turn out great!

  3. I really like your spiral earring. I could so see myself wearing that.

    And I know what you mean about seed beads. I like somethings made with them but they really aren't my thing. I don't have the patience. I tried to teach myself the peyote stitch but ended up throwing my hands up in frustration. I bead to enjoy myself and relax not to raise my blood pressure.

  4. Thanks, Shaiha, for the feedback. I'll have to get to work on that other spiral. ;-) I did end up liking that style, but I got intimidated with the idea of "duplicating" it. But I should use my bead approach...just make a bunch until I get it right and then maybe the others will match. :-)