April 1, 2018: AMBER.1 Very Old Amber

 

“Unexpectedly Sentimental”

It’s Easter. It’s April Fool’s. It’s interesting Amber time.

This necklace is very old Amber: an oxymoronical statement since to be Amber, it has to be fossilized resin of extinct pine trees dating back 40 million years. This mixed necklace contains three antique natural extra-large Moroccan Baltic Butterscotch Amber beads at the center and two out from the center. To clarify the oxymoron, they are Baltic Amber, by definition very old, but also antique since they were crafted into this shape over 100 years ago in Morocco. Therefore, they are also rare. Etsy has an overflow of amber pieces, but only one with these three beads in it; they price out at $166 each.

The remaining 18 beads are Ram’s Horn, also made in Morocco, also antique, also natural. Their patina is even more interesting: cracks and dryness which I assume are from the dry mountainous air of the nomadic Berbers who traded in beads. Their colors are in vibrant shades of amber. The ram has been a popular theme in jewelry and adornment since the Phoenicians of the 6th century BC.  I still wear my ram’s horn gold earrings from the 1980’s.

 

On many large Amber beads, signs of testing are visible as round black marks near the hole.

See details in two beads to left.

The trader would prove the authenticity of his beads by applying a hot needle: if it cannot penetrate the surface and if the contact smells of soot, it is real Amber.

Other resins would allow the needle to easily go into the bead and smell of fresh pine.

 

 

Finishing this necklace are some small Chinese wood beads with miniature landscapes etched in black ink, chosen for the overall shade of amber dye to extend my color theme. Notice sterling silver spacers and interesting circle with a lobster clasp. Wear your silver earrings.

Weight: 10 ounces

Length: 21”

Price: $175

Size of largest bead: 23 x 35 mm or roughly 7/8” hole to hole by 1.5” high

 

Berbers are indigenous to North Africa, especially Algeria and Morocco, living there as farmers since the Phoenician times. They were also traders, although not as famous as the later Tuareg tribes discussed in my blog of March 22, 2017.

March 15: Creative Clasps, Chapter 2

Why bother with unique clasps? Answers: it’s all about the hunt; it’s a challenge to put something creative at the back of the neck; it makes me stretch.

Anyone can use store-bought clasps or even seek out artist-make clasps at the big bead shows. I too use these old stand-bys for the majority of my necklaces. But it is fun to rummage through my drawers and cubbies to see what odd find can be made into a clasp.

I made a decision early on that I didn’t want to create beads. It suited my personality to engage in a hunt for the odd, quirky, overlooked, repurposable, full-of-character item that can function as one part of a clasp—either the circle or the stationary part or the toggle or moving part of the clasp. Yes, I am a collector. My finds are my treasures.

This particular clasp find is a 1960’s vintage plastic circle that was a good color match to the necklace. Plus, it added texture to the already-rich necklace: look closely at the crisscross pattern.

I designed the toggle part of the clasp from sterling silver wire.

The centerpiece is thick handmade glass I purchased in Murano, Italy, with a distinctly aqueous pattern in bold tones of aqua and pale grey with some darker streaks. It is 2” diameter.

In a stroke of great bead karma, Drawer 15 (Grey) contained the palest shade of grey faceted Czech glass beads which are the base of the necklace and speak to the centerpiece. Also note the four artist-made lampwork glass beads bookended with rare vintage Italian oval glass beads in aqua.

Statistics for this necklace follow:

Title: “Murano Waves”

Length: 21” plus centerpiece.

Featured beads are described above. Matching earrings with 7/8” dangle are included.

Price: $110.

 

I made a trip to Murano & Venice in 2013 and blogged about it here on June 29, 2013.

March 1: Creative Clasps

Let me count the things I love when creating necklaces: creative clasps, asymmetry, chunky beads, bold statements, anything that puts a smile on one’s face.

I have a saying in my studio: “Life is too short to make boring necklaces”. I’d rather have fun mixing up colors, styles, throwing in some whimsy, and presenting the resulting creation to the public.

I’ll admit I was pleased with this necklace. The beads are rock crystal and faceted (more unusual than smooth); the necklace is asymmetrical, and possesses a creative clasp I bought last year and have been eager to use! It hit a lot of the things I love!

Rock crystal is also called natural crystal. Natural crystal is a quartz without other minerals present. It was formed when molten rock magma cooled beneath the Earth’s surface and crystals formed. Over time, other minerals infiltrate the natural crystal, add color and the results include well-known semi-precious stones like: amethyst; citrine; rose quartz; smoky topaz, to name a few.

Crystals are favored by healers. Rock crystal is associated with balance, clarity and energy.

Information for this necklace follows:
Title: “Music of the Spheres”
Length: 21”
Featured beads: Faceted rock crystals with brushed sterling silver circles. Sterling silver hook clasp by
Priscilla. Matching earrings included.
Price: $119.

February 15: Cut some Ball Chain, Add a Centerpiece!

My Blog Plan for 2018 is based on a first of the month posting of a special necklace and its story which was also 2017’s plan, only weekly. I also thought I might post a more lighthearted piece of work mid-month.

There is nothing more lighthearted than ball chain. My first exposure to it was a lucky rabbit’s foot I received as a birthday present as a kid. Today such a gift would have PETA picketing outside our family home. I just attached it to my pencil bag and petted it for good luck.

Otherwise folks used it to keep their keys together. Maybe it should have been called key chain? Or dogtag chains? Or pull cord chain?

My selections from the top include fancy sterling silver ball chain with the Egyptian Ankh and Nefertiti pendants.

Then three brass ball chain 24-6” long, with picture jasper, brass and copper, and ceramic snake pendants.

 

 

 

Next, 36″long ball chain with faux Amber resin and lamp-work glass with silver dots.

Finally, ordinary ball chain with picture jasper, lampwork glass and pewter in 24-6″.

Ball chain really keeps prices down!  They range from $11 to $25.

The top two sterling silver are $35 and $38, left to right.

 

 

 

FEBRUARY 1: New Jade

“Noble Space”

Last year’s challenge is a gift that keeps on giving.  As I made my way through the year, drawer by drawer, I chose to present the best that drawer had to offer, create a boffo necklace and blog it.  The gift is that many drawers offered several choices of fabulous beads which I put aside for future consideration.

Well, the future is now.  I have several trays full of plastic bags each containing a necklace wanting to be designed.  The first to jump out is New Jade with a magnificent carved jade centerpiece.

I’ve collected new jade beads for years, liking their milky green color with their cloudy opacity.  Guess what?  New jade is the trade name for semi-translucent serpentine!  It’s OK that it is not jade; I have always considered serpentine as a cousin of jade.

The real story here is the centerpiece:  it is real jade, variegated from white to mountain green, carved with the usual flourishes of talented carvers plus the open work circle which is not often seen—perhaps due to the difficulties posed by carving one of the hardest stones.

Many jade centerpieces in my stash are round and I now know why:  they were girdle ornaments in ancient China.  Read girdle as belt, perhaps similar to a Japanese obi.  In the Zhou dynasty (1050—256 AD), seven carved jade pieces hung down from the belts of men and women.  The wearers enjoyed the tinkling of the ornaments as they walked, reminding them of music, claiming it put them in a joyful disposition.

I enjoyed reading that in royal Zhou courts, only the king could wear white jade; princes wore green the color of mountains; prefects wore a water blue stone; and mere officials were assigned to prehnite which is pale green in color.  Men and women of all classes wore them, choosing emblems of their life’s work (which type of stone was not noted).

The necklace has three strands of hand cut new jade with earrings to match.  Both are finished in sterling silver.  It is 18.5” long.  The centerpiece is 2” diameter and .25” thick.  It is not heavy, weighing three ounces.  $99 the set.

I do not mean to imply the centerpiece is ancient.  To the best of my knowledge, it is contemporary.

Most of my research came from a book I purchased in Hong Kong in 1994.  Originally published in 1912, republished in 1974, my unabridged edition of Jade:  Its History and Symbolism in China by Berthold Laufer was republished in 1989.

 

 

Week 53: 2017 IN REVIEW

Thank you, dear readers, for your congratulatory comments! And thank you (WBS), for the bottles of champagne!  We’re all celebrating the achievement of a goal!  I couldn’t have done it without you, reading and commenting.  I received 326 of your encouraging comments over last year!  Thank you, thank you!

 

I couldn’t resist doing some analysis. The most popular week was #11 (amber glass) with 11 comments; followed by week 17 (dark green) and week 38 (chrysoprase) with 9 comments; and week 25 (iridescent), with 8 comments.  Then I checked he lower end:  the peach necklace of week 15 got one comment, as did weeks 9 and 24 (brown and black with other colors).

 

What was easy? Writing each blog flowed like a charm; not once did I experience  writer’s block.  Two things helped:  lots of research so my head was full of interesting tidbits and I like to write.

 

What was hard? The technical stuff–especially adding more than one image and having it land where I wanted it.  I chatted with WordPress so many times on that subject that they finally asked me what operating system I was using.  They told me it was too old (as did my webmaster and others.  So I did the cyber Monday thing and bought a new PC, to be installed soon!)

 

The other difficult challenge was to get rid of the blue background in most of my pictures. Not possible until I realized my kitchen window was UV-tinted, so I moved my photo area to a north-facing un-tinted window.

 

I intended to rejuvenate my bead artistry as I turned 75. It turned out that meant I must create a spectacular necklace once a week for 52 weeks:  that realization hit me early on; it became a point of pride and the true challenge.  Twenty-nine necklaces sold.  I am humbled and gratified.

One existing collector (MBL) bought 5; a new collector (DS) also bought 5: to you both, a belated but heartfelt tip of the NYEve champagne glass!  Another existing collector (SL) bought 2 and a long term friend (SG) bought 2!  New friends, local friends, plus California friends took this year over the top for me!  Thank you!

More than one person has asked me to put this together in book form.  That thought is a little overpowering right now.

Over 52 weeks, my thoughts have delved more and more frequently into the ageing process. Having fun, making moments count, valuing relationships, letting the unimportant slip away, leaning into quality workmanship, keeping promises (to post every Wednesday come hell or high water!)—-  this is what I learned this year.  And how lucky I was that Rochelle Ford’s centerpiece and philosophy were the grand finale!

One unintended consequence yielded a great benefit: I will donate four boxes of beads I no longer want after going through 52 drawers of beads acquired over  23-years, to Rosie’s Place, a non-profit in Boston, founded in 1974, which serves more than 12,000 poor and homeless women a year.  Their Craft Cooperative teaches women to make bead jewelry and learn a new skill.

Thanks for hanging in there with me.  I’m taking the rest of January off.  I shall present a new program on February 1, 2018.  Thank you all.  See you soon.  Be well.

 

Drawer 52: Recycled Found Metal

“Urban Jabber”

My Chinese Apothecary Chest:   in 1994, it arrived via container to California from Hong Kong, where I discovered beading during my husband’s ex-pat assignment. Serves as the repository for my beads.  Handcrafted.  It has 52 Drawers, mostly sorted by color.

2017 Challenge: Create a Necklace a Week, using only the Beads from one Drawer at a time. Voila!  52 Necklaces!

‘Week 52/Drawer 52: December 28, 2017: “Urban Jabber”

We have arrived at the last Wednesday of 2017 and at the bottom right last drawer. Drawer 52 actually contains faux amber, but the necklace would look a lot like Drawer 34 (August 23), so I have chosen to conclude my year’s work with panache.  I will tie together an amazing centerpiece with a quote from the artist which will, in turn, tie together my thoughts on rejuvenating my work in my 75th year.

Rochelle Ford, Palo Alto, CA, is the artisan who made the centerpiece. At age 58, she taught herself to weld, got a permit to salvage metal at the town dump, and turned her home into a gallery of her work.   I took some classes from her in the late 90’s to learn how to solder (I flunked, just like those drawing classes I took.  So if you can’t do it, buy it from one who can!)

I commissioned some recycled metal centerpieces from Rochelle and this is the last one in my inventory.

Life marched on.  I’m in Boston; Rochelle has turned 81 and is still welding.  Imagine my surprise three years ago when some ageing quotes popped up in my email, just like the cute dog and cat emails, and my friend Rochelle had a fabulous quote!  I copied it and put it on my studio bulletin board.  Here it is:

“ Every morning when I wake up, I say, ‘I’ll never be as young as I am today.  Today is the youngest day of the rest of my life.  Get up and do something fun!’” 

Her piece is 5.75” by 4.75”. There are many crazy bits of metal welded together and painted.  Like all my centerpieces, they dictate the colors of the beads:  here olive and copper were the obvious choices.  They had to be chunky, so there is lampwork glass, Indian glass, filigreed copper, a strand of small round flat vintage Czech glass, and it really demanded some hefty copper chain.  It weighs just 10 oz, not a heavy necklace.

The beaded section is 9.5” long on each side and features a large copper clasp. Matching olive  earrings don’t match with each other:  one is round and the other an organic pear shape.  As Rochelle recommends, have fun!  $139.

Rochelle’s story is too good not to tell, so I will do a week 53 wrap-up to tie together my thoughts on rejuvenating my work and what I learned over the past 52 weeks. We’ll pretend there are 53 weeks in 2017.

You will love her website www.metalsculptor.com, or google her name Rochelle Ford.

 

 

 

 

Drawer 51: Reverse Painting & Bumpy Beads

“Meditation on Nature”

My Chinese Apothecary Chest:   in 1994, it arrived via container to California from Hong Kong, where I discovered beading during my husband’s ex-pat assignment. Serves as the repository for my beads.  Handcrafted.  It has 52 Drawers, mostly sorted by color.

2017 Challenge: Create a Necklace a Week, using only the Beads from one Drawer at a time. Voila!  52 Necklaces!

Week 51/Drawer 51: December 20, 2017: “Meditation on Nature”

In the middle “double wide” drawer, I found two oddities: four glass beads painted on the inside that I found in a flea market-type setting in Beijing and my bag full of what I call bumpy beads, due to their surface texture, but undoubtedly vintage Bohemian pressed glass.

As I emptied out the bumpy beads, the bright green ones wanted to be near the painted glass so they could pop the green in the landscape scenes. Finding some matte vintage Lucite beads that didn’t overpower the painted beads was easy—Drawer 6 offered a great selection.  I chose three large plus a strand of medium faceted beads to intersperse with the green glass.

Reverse painting originated in Venice in the 13th century, resurfaced as a method of portrait painting in the 19th century, and enchanted Americans as fancy lampshades in 1910.  But it was the Chinese who elevated reverse painting to fine art using very delicate brushes.

This necklace features two beads with a typical landscape of a lake, a boat, a mountain, and a verdant foreground with a tree by the lake. The other two feature an elegant crane in flight and, on the other side, a resting crane.  Imagine packing all that inside a bead that is only ¾” in diameter!

Cranes are a frequent symbol in the Chinese culture since they are a sign of longevity.  A common expression is “heavenly crane” which is a reference to wisdom, the second role of the crane.

I could not find any images of my bumpy bead collection, so my name sticks. I am confident they are the pressed glass Bohemian-style beads made in post-war Germany.  See Drawer 30 for the story (7-26-17).

This necklace is 22.5” long. The clasp is a matte glass odd-shaped circle with a silver toggle.  I made earrings to match.  Since I’ve had the painted beads for so long, I used their original low price and not the average price of $12 to $15 each I saw on Etsy.  Therefore, the set is $79.

Stay tuned…only one more Wednesday in 2017. I plan to end this challenge with panache!!!

 

Drawer 50: Wood

“Blurry Shadows”

My Chinese Apothecary Chest:   in 1994, it arrived via container to California from Hong Kong, where I discovered beading during my husband’s ex-pat assignment. Serves as the repository for my beads.  Handcrafted.  It has 52 Drawers, mostly sorted by color.

2017 Challenge: Create a Necklace a Week, using only the Beads from one Drawer at a time. Voila!  52 Necklaces!

Week 50/Drawer 50: December 13, 2017: “Blurry Shadows”

 

I am so close to the end that it is scary. Only two drawers left after this one.

My Apothecary Chest has seven rows of seven drawers, each 16” deep. Across the bottom, there are only three drawers:  I call them my “double-wides.”  And, I guess, because they are odd-sized, I used them for odd beads which didn’t have a home in one of the other 49 drawers.  So these last three are free-form!

The first is wood. I found enough to fill one-third of a drawer. Not the sophisticated wood of Drawer 4; but playful wood, reminiscent of the large shapes that were strung into necklaces for us as kids—at least in my house where we were five girls, only eight years from me to my baby sister, and a play producer Mother—dress-up and staging plays in the cellar was what we did if there was no sun shining outside.

I glossed over the playful beads as I tumbled them onto my work surface because I immediately saw a contemporary (dare I say sophisticated?) design in black and beige. It is pictured above; I shall let you judge.

The necklace is symmetrical, chunky, and very light. A pleasing yet somewhat bold design.  But I didn’t restrain myself with the earrings:  asymmetrical; one beige, one black, neither matching.  I got cold feet the next day and made a conservative pair of earrings.  Both come with the necklace.  Wearer’s choice.

The necklace measures 21.5” and is $59 including two pair of earrings.

I’ve been asked. Yes, Virginia, there will be a next year.  I’ll take a break from weekly challenges and make it monthly in 2018, with little bits popping up in between on some Wednesdays.  More info soon.  It’s premature, but THANKS, I couldn’t have done this without your feedback and that ultimate compliment of a purchase.

Drawer 49: Aventurine, a semi-precious stone

“Seductive Lure”

My Chinese Apothecary Chest:   in 1994, it arrived via container to California from Hong Kong, where I discovered beading during my husband’s ex-pat assignment. Serves as the repository for my beads.  Handcrafted.  It has 52 Drawers, mostly sorted by color.

2017 Challenge: Create a Necklace a Week, using only the Beads from one Drawer at a time. Voila!  52 Necklaces!

Week 49/Drawer 49: December 6, 2017: “Seductive Lure”

It is fitting that the Aventurine drawer is next to the Jade drawer because I used to have a lot of green aventurine which can be close to jade in color, and was my reason for making those drawers neighbors, but there are many other aventurine colors—blue, yellow, orange, and a brownish called red—which I have collected over the years and now outnumber the green.

This necklace features red aventurine which I paired with a bug-eyed koi fish. At first, I chose white jade to fill in the Aventurine and it wasn’t working.  A closer look at the fish showed me its underside was the palest of lavenders.  I really had to suspend belief in color theory to go with Mother Nature’s combo of lavender and red aventurine.  The results charmed me.

Then my research told me why the colors worked: Aventurine is a form of quartz.  The koi fish is agate which is one of the most common materials used in the art of hardstone carving and agate is also a quartz.  If you are confused, it’s easier to say  aventurine and agate have the same parents.  Additionally, they both channel abundance in the world of crystal properties.

The Chinese are very fond of Koi or goldfish and keep them in bowls in their homes or in ponds in the temple gardens. The Chinese words “jin yu” meaning goldfish are phonetically identical with the two words meaning “gold in abundance”, thereby making the goldfish/koi symbol a traditional wedding gift.

The necklace measures 18” long plus 2.5” for the goldfish.  I just found two more Red Aventurine beads and can make earrings to match.  $69 plus $15 if earrings desired.

 

Guess what else I discovered about quartz? It accounts for 12% of the Earth’s crust.

I found my koi/goldfish cultural interpretations in the same book I referred to last week : A Dictionary of Chinese Symbols by Wolfram Eberhard, first published in 1983.