The Bunch Series

“Clarity and Subtlety”

A couple of years ago, I had the idea of bunching a group of related-by-color beads with a two-color necklace. I was pleased with the results, so I make one whenever the inspiration strikes. Presented here is November’s offering plus one from this year and another from last year.

They are fun to make, even if the wire work is a tad laborious. But they serve another purpose: I can utilize my special beads which don’t suffice for a full necklace, but can be the highlights of a Bunch Necklace. That is how they are born—open a drawer, find a bag of a half-dozen beauties left from a big project—lay them down on my desk and keep adding more beads until some colors announce that they are happy with each other. Lay those colors on a design board, search other drawers to find what’s missing, then celebrate the “aha” moments as a real necklace designs itself!

Not easy for a beginner, but after 25 years, I’ve learned to look and listen to the beads. They know what colors they want to be beside. Sometimes they surprise me. They have been wrong a few times and I have had to take them apart and return them to their drawers for another chance at greatness.

November’s choice could get you through this year’s holiday parties. The necklace is composed of sparkly black and clear faceted crystal glass with some rhinestone spacers. The bunch features black and white swirls on clear blown Venetian glass with additions of silver, vintage pearls, a vintage plastic flower and leaf, and vintage Japanese black glass drops. Matching asymmetrical crystal earrings. The necklace measures 20”. $99 for the set.

This necklace was born in my busy 75th year (2017) when I set aside a bag of vintage molded glass shells from 1950’s West Germany. They posed a design challenge (how to wire them) until this summer when I said, this is easy, and threw them together! I think you can see how the beads dictated that the jasper semi-precious and vintage yellow (plastic) colors would work together. Length: 19”. Matching earrings. $99 for the set.

 

 

 

 

This Bunch started when pink and aqua met on my desk, so I built on it. I wire-wrapped Venetian blown glass, “sugar” beads as I like to call glass with dotted textured surfaces, and vintage glass leaf stick pins and bunched them. The pink became matte and shiny Czech glass juxtaposed with a bit of aqua. 19” length. Wear with your silver earrings. $79

 

 

 

 

A Max Moment

I worship at Glastonbury Abbey, Hingham, MA, which has beautiful woods and grounds walked by locals and their dogs.  A long-time occurrence each October is the Blessing of the Animals.  Max was a beneficiary this year, under a gorgeous blue sky, along with about two dozen other dogs and some cats.

 

 

Me holding Max tightly so he won’t jump on Abbot Tom who celebrated the Blessing.  The Abbot had just finished asking the human participants what their pets meant to them.  I answered that he is someone I can talk to and no one thinks I am crazy but was upstaged by a 9-year old who said “a lot.”  Clearly the best answer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the occasion of my husband Don’s interment in Glastonbury Abbey’s Columbarium, my four sisters funded a bench in his name inscribed with these words:  “In memory of Don Beadle who had a smile for everyone.”  I wanted to connect Don and Max and here is what it looked like.

Venetian Memories

“A Venetian Memory”

I’m trespassing in unknown territory here.  While I have a unique necklace to present, I know very little about it.  So this blog is all speculation based solely on my 25 years of experience.

In Venice, I was walking to a bead shop near St. Pantaleon Church, set in a small plaza on a canal.  There was also an antique shop in the plaza.  I spent some time looking in its windows,  discovering several treasures which impassioned me.  Recall how I love hunting for interesting beads and you’ll understand how I wanted to pounce on a necklace and a bracelet in that shop window.  It was closed.  Later, I thought.

The bead shop had beautiful local glass beads made in Murano which I was pleased to purchase and thrilled the prices were close to what I pay for them in the USA.  I sauntered back to the antique shop.  Still closed.  I was to make two more trips until I could enter the shop.

I looked at all their jewelry butsettled on to the two I zeroed in on earlier in the day:  for myself I bought a pearl necklace with a front closure similar to the one I am presenting to my readers plus a honey yellow glass bead bracelet with this orange and brass dangle.

Once I arrived home on May 8, I placed the bracelet on my work table.  On June 10, I finished the necklace.  I had purchased a strand of giant Baroque* pearls last October.  I removed the clasp and centerpiece unit from the bracelet, strung the pearls and voila, a Venetian Memory!

A close-up of the centerpiece.

The clasp/centerpiece is a gold-colored brass of excellent craftmanship with 6 orange glass cabochons bezeled in place with filigree work on top and bottom.  This circular piece is attached to another brass circle with a 1950-style flower soldered on to it.  Quite a remarkable example of workmanship.

The necklace consists of two pricey components—the pearls and the clasp/centerpiece.  20″ of pearls which range from 14-17 mm each (one inch is 25.4 mm) and a clasp/centerpiece (meant to be worn in front) which is 2″ long.  $149.

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*Baroque pearls are natural freshwater pearls featuring unique markings, imperfections,  irregularities and subtle beige coloration unevenly marked.


A MAX MOMENT

This is one of Max’s most endearing traits as he calms down as he approaches 15 months:  when he jumps on my bed, he takes a big mouthful of the throw into his mouth, brings both paws beside his mouth and gets a contented look.  It’s his “blankie”, his security blanket!

 

Welcome 2019 and the American Sleeping Beauty Turquoise

“American Sleeping Beauty”

 

I remember when I was first introduced to American Sleeping Beauty Turquoise at one of my beloved bead shows in Northern California.

Whether it was Oakland or Santa Barbara; what the exact date was; I have no recall. I saw the clarity of a robin blue strand of really big faceted turquoise beads, and just like the first Tiffany boxed gift you receive, you are transfixed by the color and you know you are in the presence of something iconic.

The strand was expensive ($39 per bead), but I intuitively knew it was worth it. And guess what? I never saw turquoise from the American Beauty mine in Globe, Arizona, again. After my research for this blog, I know why: the mine closed in 2012*.

Close-up of the front of the centerpiece showing artistic use of boring ole electroplate. There are two pieces: the flower shape on top and the rectangle of dyed magnesite on the bottom.

Turquoise mines in that area date back to the Anasazi era (200 BC to AD1500) of Native Americans. The Navajos mined it into the 1900s. An American entrepreneur took it over in the ‘60s and closed it in 2012 to mine copper.What made this necklace possible was my discovery of the creative centerpiece at my favorite Boston area bead show this past October. Currently it is the only show I attend since I am well-stocked after 24 years in this endeavor! But like all acquirers, I can’t stop looking! And buying….

The vendor didn’t tell me the name of the designer even though I asked, so I can’t give credit. I have two more to use later. Can you see me smiling?

What attracted me to this centerpiece was the creative use of copper electroplate, usually seen as smooth and sleek. This inspired artist made it to the consistency of mashed potatoes and just piled it on, with a few balls of pure copper accenting the bumps. S/he picked dyed magnesite (often confused as turquoise, and, worse, often claimed as turquoise by unscrupulous vendors), then cleverly added a “flower” in the spirit of more is better. There is even more: the top bead of frosted rock crystal is artistically embellished, crowned by a generous circle to attach to a necklace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The back of the centerpiece:

electroplated copper on dyed magnesite.

 

 

 

The third component to this magnificent piece (forgive my abandonment of humility) are the Swarovski pearls which the world-famous crystal producer made by using a crystal instead of the usual shell irritant, resulting in faux pearls in a myriad of colors! So this necklace is the classic high/low I often see in home design magazines. They are reasonably priced, but a quality pearl: the low to the above two highs.

Now for the summary: this American Beauty Turquoise necklace is 20” plus a 3” long centerpiece. $259.00 including earrings.

 

*Not to say American Beauty Turquoise cannot be found. Many people, especially the miners, have stashes of it. Prices have increased, as they do for all scarce commodities.

July 1, 2018: Faux Pearls and A Real Puppy

“Dreams Die Hard”

I wanted this month’s featured necklace to have a short story because I have a longer story I am eager to share.

“Meet Max,wearing a necklace of abalone shell and pearls made in California by Elaine”

Max is the feature this month: a Labradoodle born on April 12, 2018 and welcomed into my home on June 19. Yellow Lab Maxie passed away on February 3 and it didn’t take me long to realize I missed my canine companion and I hated the quiet house! To fix it, I did a lot of research and found an experienced certified breeder: Marianne Hannagan at Autumn Haze Labradoodles in Newmarket, NH.

The result is an 11-lb cream-colored mellow male puppy who should be 30 lbs at maturity. He is quite delightful even though he exhausted me the first week! Week two is an improvement as we adapt to each other. We have started Obedience Training.

He now sleeps in his crate, assembledlast week by my brother-in-law, and already loves it! He walks into it often. Amazing.

He is full of puppy energy. I think he turns on a go button and runs for60 minutes, then switches the off button and sleeps for more than an hour. Since I’m getting up at 6am, I try to outsmart him by taking him to the garden where I cut, deadhead and weed while he runs up, down and around. Then at 7, it’s food, coffee and the newspaper while he cools down and sleeps. For the rest of the day, it is all about Max outsmarting me as I follow him around, removing low-hanging stuff, re-arranging electrical cords and putting my belongings up high.

Max was in the studio with me as I made this month’s necklace.

It is sweet and quiet, even though it looks so shiny in the photo. It is made with faux pearls which have no background story, in a pleasant pale yellow. The lampwork glass heart is made by Louise Erskine (MA) and is pale yellow at its center surrounded by several shades of soft green.

This necklace is 19” long; the centerpiece is 1.5″ long; the clasp is brass; matching earrings with vermeil earwires are included. $79.

 

Drawer 41: Keshi Pearls: Silver Grey

“Grand Illusion”

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 41/Drawer 41: October 11, 2017: “Grand Illusion”

I have two pearl drawers: last week’s was white and this week’s has grey, gold and pink-apricot tones in its three compartments.  Most of the grey have a lot of iridescence and spoke loudly to me.  I was not hearing them; my ears and eyes loved the tender quiet elegance of the silver grey.

And their muted tones rewarded me as I researched them because I learned about a class of pearls about which I knew nothing—Keshi (sometimes spelled Keishi.)

Recall from last week that the freshwater pearl is born when an irritant is placed in the mussel shell: the Keshi as developed by the Japanese were the smaller pearls that grew in the same shell when the irritant was rejected. They are pure nacre. The Chinese pearl farmers don’t leave Keshi to chance—they do a second harvest to create only Keshi.  This product is not plump and full like the first harvest which is from a young mussel producing a lot of nacre to coat the irritant.  Again, see last week’s image of lovely plump pearls.  Second harvest mussels are older, producing flatter, thinner pearls.

The true Keshi in this necklace are the nacre-only, long skinny pearls in a beautiful silver color. I spaced them with tiny sterling silver seed beads.  The small sized pearls in the second strand are high luster Akoya freshwater (first harvest) pearls, almost always a light grey.

I added a pewter centerpiece in a basketweave pattern (2.25″ long) and a sterling silver clasp. Wear your favorite silver earrings with this necklace which measures 19.5”.  $79.

Drawer 40: Freshwater Pearls: White

 

“Tell it a Little More Than it is”

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 40/Drawer 40: October 4, 2017: “Tell it a Little More than it is”

Once upon a time, pearls were stratospherically expensive. Only cultured pearls existed; think of black Tahitian pearls harvested by divers, or the Japanese Akoya Oyster pearls in those luscious Mikimoto ads.

Ah, the legends: New York jeweler Jacob Driver was said to have sold a rope (36” to 54”)of pearls in the 1890s for $1.5 million.  Pearls were the most valued type of jewel in the Golden Age (See blog dated July 12, 2017 for more of the excesses of the Golden Age.) Jacques Cartier famously bought the NYC mansion where his iconic Fifth Ave store still stands for a double strand of matched pearls valued at $1 million in 1917.

That was then; this is now. In 1979, Japan and the USA developed a method to farm pearls by placing an irritating microscopic object in a mussel, forcing it to develop a nacreous coating over the object.  Freshwater pearls became available to all at reasonable cost.  In the USA, sadly, there is only one still in business, in Tennessee.  China has become the low cost producer and market leader.

“Nacreous” and “iridescent” are the words used to describe freshwater pearls, just like the inside of a mussel shell. There are many colors and shapes.

This necklace features nicely rounded large pearls in a natural white lustre. I wanted to use the copper ceramic piece to hold the pearl strands together, so since six lengths could be jammed in, the resulting necklace has three strands.  I added some dyed copper freshwater pearls in pear shapes as dangles.  And if you look at the clasp end of the necklace, there are some small sparkling glass beads faceted on the top and flat on the bottom—made in the USA for the millinery industry in the 1920s (again, see the July 12 blog!).

The ceramic piece is made by Barbara Hanselman who describes herself as a claysmith. She is smitten with creating in clay and has a fabulous website.  She is based in Cherry Hill, NJ.

This necklace is 22” long and the dangles add 4”.  Copper designer clasp.  Earrings on copper earwires with a pearl and a millinery bead are included.  The set is $149.

Drawer 25: Iridescent

  Week 25/Drawer 25: June 21, 2017: “I Believe I can Fly”

 I’ve made perhaps ten of these complicated woven necklaces in my 22 years as a bead jewelry artist. As a beginner in the 90’s, I took lots of classes from a lot of fabulous well-known instructors.  I loved learning about other artists’ styles and methods, hearing their tips, fondling their samples, and buying their beads and books.  For me, there is no better way to spend time.

helen dietze (always lower case) gave classes in making “Ambassadors”—knotted woven seed bead chunks about 2” x 6” strung on thread which was tied in a knot and worn long. As named, she took them on her travels and gave them away.  She also taught her techniques, including an advanced class where the Ambassador was used to encase a beautiful extraordinary object preferably found in exotic places.  These creations were meant to exemplify the “more is better” theory.  This class was made for me!

 

 

 

 

So, helen, here is what you taught me 20 years ago, adapted to my style, and an appropriate challenge for Week 25, almost halfway to the end; almost to my 75th birthday!

 

 

 

 

A bit of a bio of helen: Born in perhaps 1919 (she disallowed discussions of her age); she studied art at the Rudolph Schaeffer School of Color and Design in San Francisco; was widowed in 1959; lived in a house in San Leandro, No. California, which was packed to the rafters with mosaics, yarns, looms, and beads.  Small of stature, she was tall in presence:  perfect make-up with signature red lipstick; hair up in a chignon; black clothing; and always a major necklace on her neck.  She was our Georgia O’Keefe.  helen passed away in 2004, at approximately age 85.  Needless to say, the crowds at her memorial were huge.

In closeup, above, in step 5.

To describe my necklace, I shall do it in terms of the construction process (usually called my design process):

  1. Go to the bottom of the necklace and find the knot of beads. This section, about 2” x 2” is the “Ambassador” starting point. I added the sterling silver fish and the pewter frog. Attach it to the 4” long shell with some holes supplied by Mother Nature.
  2. I weave and knot my way up and over the shell strip using multi-color beads of varying sizes. My principal colors reflect the iridescent shell—greens, pinks and greys in all shades. Blues and reds thrown in for punch.
  3. Practicing “more is better”, I add another shell, 2” at its longest. By now I am working with four strands of strong bead thread on each side.
  4. I start up one side. I string 2-3” on two strands and knot them. I string a new strand, add a few beads to one of the strand I just knotted. Repeat over and over. But I only go up 3-4” on this one side.
  5. Then I turn my attention to the other side, always consulting side 1 to assure balance by bulk and color.
  6. Note the Guatemalan fish dangles at about the 4” mark. Here I terminate one strand on each side so I can progress with three strands.
  7. I work narrower as I round the neck area, tie off and cut one more strand to finish with only two.
  8. The darling frog button gets attached on side 2 and I string medium size Czech glass on the loop side, completing the closure and the necklace. It took 22 hours by my best guess. Did you find the fourth fish dangle?

This woven necklace is 22.5” long. The centerpiece section is 7”.  $139.

Drawer 23: Black (Shiny)

 

“Midnight in the Gardens”

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

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

Week 23/Drawer 23: June 7, 2017: “Midnight in the Gardens”

These shiny black beads spoke to me because of their unique white line down one corner. These are vintage resin beads and their shine has dulled as many hands have touched them over four decades or so. They are a product of the 70’s.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the explanation for the white line had to do with the mold they were cast in and not some fabulous creative detail.  But we shall not know because I cannot find any info on these beads and if there was a story when I bought them, it is now forgotten.

 

 

Well, I’m a techie-in training, and I barely managed to draw orange arrows to show my readers the cool white lines, but I couldn’t get rid of the pesky “text” circle.  Oh, well, enjoy and chuckle!

 

 

 

 

There is a story in the white freshwater pearls: my friend Penny’s friend sent them to me to re-use.  I fell for their heft, solidity and the fine markings etched by their life in a shell in warm water somewhere in Asia.  They were re-used within a month of receipt; lightning speed for me who can hold beads for twenty years before finding a match!

I have undoubtably mentioned my need to personalize my creations with an interesting clasp so the view from behind is as creative as the front. I estimate that this is possible in half of the necklaces I produce.  This one features a black plastic elliptical circle with a black horn toggle.

Three bold components in this neckpiece: rectangular beads, hefty pearls and a strong clasp!  Just the way I like it!

This strand is 19.5” and comes with matching pearl earrings on a modified hoop. $79.

BROOCH FANTASIA

I will accept commissions combining your favorite brooch, contemporary or family antique, with my orphan pearls and appropriate other beads, probably seed beads and crystals.  The cost would be approximately $139.  We can exchange photos of your brooch and I’ll give you a firm quote.

I will accept commissions combining your favorite brooch, contemporary or family antique, with my orphan pearls and appropriate other beads, probably seed beads and crystals. The cost would be approximately $139. We can exchange photos of your brooch and I’ll give you a firm quote.

 

 

Time for something different! This is a beautiful Beadleful necklace and I am not ashamed of my pride because every time I wear it, I get many compliments. I shall tell you its story because I would like you to have the opportunity to have one of your own.

Over the years, when pearls, the freshwater variety I love to use, wouldn’t fit through my regular beading wire, I put them in a jar. Around the same time, I acquired this colorful brooch that my friend, Kyung and I bought in Christian Lacroix’ shop in the exclusive Carleton Hotel on La Croisette in Cannes. While we browsed, our husbands waited outside by the sea, watching the bathers. Needless to say, they weren’t bored.

We each found an irresistible brooch featured in Lacroix’ end-of-season sale. I used to wear mine to work on my suit lapel–so 1990’s. Fashion changed; I retired; the brooch went into my drawer.

Around 2010, my last year in California, I put the orphan pearls and the neglected brooch together. The pearls are of all sizes and shapes, drawn randomly from my stash, but strung on finer than normal bead wire. I used Japanese glass seed beads, fine and shiny, as well as crystals to add interest to the pearls. It takes five strands at a minimum to look good! I made an investment in a real gold or sterling silver clasp because this is a personal heirloom.

And I can do the same for you.

I will accept commissions combining your favorite brooch, contemporary or family antique, with my orphan pearls and appropriate other beads, probably seed beads and crystals. The cost would be approximately $139. We can exchange photos of your brooch and I’ll give you a firm quote. There’s only one disclosure; you must be aware that the fine bead wire I use means it’s fairly fragile, so handle with care.

 

Caption: This 18” long necklace of pearls and a favorite brooch is a show-stopper.

Precious Petrified Wood

 

 

I have paired the petrified bleached wood from Alaska with large baroque pearls (read interesting and organic shapes), and beige multi-toned glass seed beads woven in and out of the wood. The necklace is just shy of 21”.  It has a pewter-based gold-coated clasp and can be worn casually or dress-up.  Just remember, it is no longer precious; it is now a statement piece! The price is $175 which includes shipping and insurance.

Petrified bleached wood with large baroque pearls, and beige multi-toned glass seed beads woven in and out of the wood.
About 21”, with a pewter-based gold-coated clasp; can be worn casually or dress-up.It is a statement piece!
The price of $175 includes shipping and insurance.

 

Can you believe it was over ten years ago that I bought several pieces of petrified bleached wood from Alaska at the big fabulous bead shows I used to go to at San Mateo, CA?

Can you believe that I’ve held these precious commodities until now? What is it when something is so precious to us we are afraid to use it? Think of your grandmother’s crystal; your child’s first Mother’s Day gift purchased with his own money; that expensive designer blouse we splurged on? That is how I classified my petrified wood….until now.
Here it is, magnificent in its paleness, pure in its organic forms, and sustainably repurposed into adornment that we can wear and enjoy! I have removed it from the rank of precious and transferred it to attainable. Such a transformation!
I have paired the petrified bleached wood with large baroque pearls (read interesting and organic shapes), and beige multi-toned glass seed beads woven in and out of the wood.
The necklace is just shy of 21”. It has a pewter-based gold-coated clasp and can be worn casually or dress-up. Just remember, it is no longer precious; it is now a statement piece!
The price is $175 which includes shipping and insurance.