Drawer 32: Cobalt Blue

“Fact from Legends”

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 32/Drawer 32: August 9, 2017: “Fact from Legends”

This centerpiece is part of a 1940’s lampshade from Shanghai. And it is amazing that it exists at all!  Shall I tell you why?

China was ruled by Mao Zedong from 1949, when he declared the People’s Republic of China was under one-party rule, until his death in 1976. The last ten years of his regime is known as The Cultural Revolution which aimed to purge capitalists and traditionalists from Chinese society in order to impose his own communist ideology. The purged were humiliated publicly; property was seized; youth were made to go to the countryside to learn from peasants; historical artifacts, such as Confucius’ birthplace, were destroyed; cultural and religious sites were ransacked; the only movies, books and theatre allowed were propaganda.  Mao said he killed 1.5 million people; the true number is alleged to be up to 6 million.

When we lived in Hong Kong from 1993-4, I read many books on the Cultural Revolution, fascinated by the stories told. I also searched the antique shops for cultural artifacts—and found the pieces of the lampshade.  The antiquarian told me how wealthy families managed to hide their treasures, mostly by burying them in the ground.  I also purchased a few finely-embroidered patches mandarins wore on their robes in the Imperial Court which ended in 1912.

As for the necklace, the beads are mostly cobalt Czech glass. The 14 cylinder beads are pre-war Bohemia pressed glass (see Drawer 30 for that history); the four small circles, plus the earrings, are glass beads made in Holland starting in the 1800’s for trade in Africa.  The lampshade centerpiece is enamel on copper and is trimmed in cobalt blue.  The clasp is glass with a sterling silver hook I fashioned.

The two-strand necklace measures 23.5”plus 2.5” for the centerpiece and dangles. The earrings are 1.5” long.  The set is $119.

This is a necklace I made some time ago.  It features freshwater pearls, garnet and seed beads.  I removed the tassels from the top piece and added a seed bead tassel.

There are four long single tassels hanging from the top piece and three pearl and garnet  single tassels from the bottom, between the long original silk tassels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are three of the four enamel-on-copper pieces from a 1940 Shanghai chandelier that I still have for future projects.

Drawer 31: Light-Medium Blue

“Something of an Asterick”

 Just like last week, I am focusing on the centerpiece while I am in the blue drawer. Only this time the centerpiece has a lot of orange, so, dear readers, I must cheat.  I must take the orange drops from Drawer 19 to make a great necklace.  Orange and blue are at opposite ends of the color wheel which makes them very compatible…not always true in our human relationships.

My compliments to fellow New Englander Stephanie Sersich (Topsham, Maine) for her wonderful Lampwork starfish. I met Stephanie at one of those gigantic bead shows in Oakland, CA, and found her here three years ago in the small but fabulous show the Bead Society holds each October in Watertown, MA.  Her starfish was alluring to me on all counts:  slightly irregular shape; polka dots, so many layers of scintillating colors!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is an asymmetrical necklace. They are a lot of fun to make and a challenge to balance.  I often choose to go asymmetrical when I have a few stunning beads I want to highlight.  In this piece, there were an excess of fabulous blue beads, none totaling more than a half-dozen.  So I gave it a whirl.

Here is a description of those beads, starting from the clasp: flat rectangular vintage medium blue; two American Art Glass with lampwork glass in between.  Then the most challenging section to balance:  two odd-shapes with a large Art Glass in between across from one odd-shape balanced with periwinkle ceramic beads. The polka dot lampwork beads were irresistible!   The only beads I had volumes of were the orange Czech glass drops, so they became the glue as well as the “pop” that holds the necklace together.

Only you, the viewer, knows if all this asymmetry worked.

The necklace is 18” and the starfish dangles 2”. The clasp is an orange glass circle with a silver toggle.  Matching earrings of American Art Glass and orange drops.  The set is $145.

See Week 17 for details on American Art Glass.

Note to Leticia S:  your necklace is on the way!!!

Drawer 30: Purple

“Don’t Let Your World Get Small”

My Chinese 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, 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 30/Drawer 30: July 26, 2017: “Don’t Let Your World Get Small”

This necklace focuses on the centerpiece; it is an artist-made glass petal wrapped over itself, leaving a ruffled opening for the necklace designer to embellish. I will confess I bought 6 of these in different colors from the husband and wife designers and I have no record of their names.  My apologies since I pride myself on acknowledging artists I use in my work.  I further confess I have made them all in the same style; namely, with multi strands of seed beads flowing from the center.

There should be an equal focus on the rare Bohemia beads I used in the necklace. I wanted to keep their purple color flowing in the centerpiece and was able to bring in green with a tube of seed beads that are green outside and purple inside!  The glass drops are also Bohemia beads.

“Details of the centerpiece with seed bead embellishment. Also notice clarity of large Bohemia beads in the necklace.”

In 1995-9, there was a trader called Ava who held semi-annual trunk shows at my favorite bead shop in Palo Alto. She sold exclusively what she called “pre-war pressed glass beads from Bohemia”.  They were exquisite and expensive and I was smart enough to buy from her every time she visited.

Bohemia is actually the precursor of the Czech Republic and touched Austria, Hungary, Germany, and Poland. Glass beads were made there from the 12th century but not until a trade show in Prague in 1829 were they commercially introduced.  By 1850, the Germans had invented costume jewelry and Austria became the premier producer of the finest glass crystals in the world…think Swarovski.  Pressed glass (which means molten glass poured into a mold) boomed until the run-up to WWII in the 1930’s and then ceased during the war years.

In postwar 1946, the German glassworkers in Bohemia were given 48 hours to leave. They were able to take precious little; the Czechs moved in to their homes and factories.  But the Germans soon coalesced in Neu Gablonz in a bombed out ammunitions factory.  They still make pressed glass but not of the pre-war quality they made in Bohemia.

Now take another look at the 12 large round purple beads in the necklace and the five drops in the centerpiece strands: they are pre-war pressed glass beads.  Made in a mold, but no mold marks.  They are as translucent as any finely cut gemstone.  Dark purple large faceted glass discs and small light purple faceted discs finish the 18” necklace.  The centerpiece is 4.5” long and 2” at its widest.  Gold metal magnet clasp.  Earrings to match.  $159 for the set.

Drawer 29: Amethyst

“Intellectual Passion”

My Chinese 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, 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 29/Drawer 29: July 19, 2017: “Intellectual Passion”

 I gently dumped out Drawers 29 and 30 since they have been sisters from the beginning—one was dedicated to lavender beads and the other to amethyst. Over the years, they became mixed into one big jumble; they needed sorting out.

I laughed out loud when I saw 76 tubes of seed beads had taken over half of drawer 29! I guess lavender/purple was my favorite color for a long time!  I reorganized them:  putting some in other drawers, some in my Girl Scout donation box (I plan to donate them in 2018 and teach local Girl Scouts how to bead), until I ended up with only 26 tubes of seed beads taking up one-third of Drawer 29.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As many seed beads as I had, I was dismayed at how little amethyst I had…until I remembered I had an overflow section in Drawer 47, so I reunited them. I found two strands of an amazing color of royal purple and set them aside for this week’s special necklace.

The strands were labeled “African Amethyst” and I thought it was some vendor’s idea of “marketing b— s—“ as my beloved Donnie liked to call it.

No. African Amethyst is a big deal!  Due to its brilliant royal purple color, it is setting the standard for the most desirable grade of amethyst.  It is completely in vogue and commands a 30% mark-up over regular light purple Brazilian stones or the deeper purple from elsewhere in the world.

Dilemma: how can I love my darker amethyst now that I’ve met African Amethyst?

Answer: I only own two strands of African Amethyst.  So, the deeper and lighter shades are what I will live with.

Based on what I paid for it, I purchased it before the rest of the world put African Amethyst in vogue. That is basically how I manage to keep my prices low—I base my retail price on what I paid for the beads, not what today’s value might be.

I strung these beads into a simple but elegant necklace with tiny faceted amethyst as spacers which allow the African gems to show off their sparkly facets. The center dangle is amethyst bezeled in gold-plate.  The clasp is brass.

Amethyst is the February birthstone. This necklace is 19” long and comes with matching earrings.  $109.

Allow me to postscript an amusing trivia I found: “Amethystos” is Greek for ‘not intoxicated’ due to their belief that drinking wine from an amethyst cup prevented drunkedness.

Drawer 26: Recycled Glass Beads from Indonesia

“Adventure of Sea and Sky”

 

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, 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 26/Drawer 26: June 28, 2017: “Adventure of Sea and Sky”

I remember the first time I saw recycled beads: probably at the giant quarterly San Mateo Gem Show (still ongoing) in the late 90’s, and my eyes popped at recycled Coke bottles—remember that shade of green?—made in Indonesia.  Due to my policy of never hesitating at the odd or the beautiful, I bought them.  In those days, they were made in Indonesia, now Ghana seems to produce a lot of recycled beads.  Pictured below are some of that original stash:  pretty unsophisticated as quality beads go, but screaming Coke bottles!  I also have some of the early blue ones made from old-style TV screens.  Both colors are relics now.

My journal notes as I string Drawer 26’s necklace. Also three of my Coke bottle recycled beads from my collection. Too bad they stopped making those green bottles!

I favor the long rectangular bars, 2” x .5”, since they are the most contemporary and I found a photo of a necklace I made around 2000 and allowed myself to be inspired by it. Most recycled glass is transparent although there are opaque dark blues and browns in my collection.  Here I have paired the transparent glacier color bars with diamond shaped beads featuring a smooth glassy top and rough etched edges.  The Indonesian recycled beads are handmade, easy to verify since no two are quite alike.

Instead of dark compliments as in my earlier version, I found a strand of grey freshwater pearls with subtle blue and green iridescence and made my decision. I used two different seed beads with similar iridescence (the colors are silver AB* and Japanese glass triangles with aqua outside and shimmering gold inside) and wove them through and around the diamond cut recycled glass as I did 17 years ago.

This necklace is 21” long with earrings to coordinate. $99 for the set.

*I learned something I wanted to pass on: AB is Aurora Borealis, a finish invented by the famous Swarovski company, and, in my world, they always connote crystals with an iridescent surface.

Drawer 24: Black (with other colors). Revised to show color😘

“Grand Illusion”

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 24/Drawer 24: June 14, 2017: “Grand Illusion”

Two weeks ago, I stated there were four black drawers. Now there are three!

I re-organized the contents into three drawers after tossing the ugly, donating the unwanted, and re-assigning others. I put iridescent beads, mostly shells, into Drawer 25 which you will see next week in a necklace of a very different style!

Let’s focus on this week’s design: Venetian glass.  It’s been a staple of mine for many years and I am down to a small supply left in Drawers 1 and 2.  I paired the Venetian with another love:  American Art glass by David Christensen.  See Week 17 for details on American Art Glass.

It is a mildly asymmetrical necklace but balanced so it will sit prettily on the neck. I needed some very shiny and medium sized beads for the top half and found those qualities in some plastic beads I bought at a yard sale back in the day when you could find real treasures in yard sales.

The clasp has a starring role with a fabulous oval piece of art glass and a sterling silver toggle I fashioned. Two perfect pieces of art glass found their way to the earrings.  All in all, a very satisfying creation.  20” long.  $99 for the set.

 

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.

Drawer 22: Black (Matte)

“22nd Century”

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

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

Week 22/Drawer 22: May 31, 2017: “22nd Century”

There are four black drawers! As I have stated, I am re-organizing/tidying/tossing as I go through my 52 bead drawers.  I approached the four black drawers, three sections each, with enthusiasm, wearing my organizer-in-chief hat.

Drawer 22 ended up with all the matte black beads and the shiny ones went to Drawer 23; I am still sorting the next two black drawers, deciding how to proceed since they are black with other colors. I guess I just named them!

My discovery in #22 were the meteorite beads pictured above. I thought they were lava beads which I have worked with for several years, but the label said meteorite…that sent me straight to Google.  Meteorite is a first for me.  As you can imagine, a meteor entered out atmosphere 50,000 years ago, crashed and splintered and lingered, and only 50 years ago, ancient gravesites were found in the Midwest with beads formed from the iron nickel fragments.  With the emergence of treasure-hunters with metal detectors, meteorite made its way to bead shows and my Drawer 22.

Black and chunky, these beads are coated to protect them from wear and oxidation. I test-drove this necklace and it is comfortable and smooth on the neck.  It is of medium weight, perfect for wearing to an event as opposed to all day.  It will start many conversations!

I added a few matte onyx beads and a pewter clasp to make the back as much fun as the front! Matching earrings in sterling silver, lava and matte onyx.  The set is $89.  The necklace measures 19.5”.

Drawer 21: Yellow

“Moralist of the Quotidian”

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

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

Week 21/Drawer 21: May 24, 2017: “Moralist of the Quotidian”

This week I shall wax poetic over a recent 2015 memory of finding this centerpiece rather than the 20-year old memories detailed in previous blogs!

An inspiring friend, Nancy Cusack, now an Adjunct Professor Emerita at Mass College of Art and Design, Boston, and Visual Artist, invites her friends to unique events at the College. I was excited to attend the opening of an exhibit of broken/unused/unwanted jewelry recycled by Professor Joe Wood’s Jewelry class into chic new wearables!  This brooch was so captivating that I immediately put it in my hand as I finished looking around.  I knew it would make a fabulous centerpiece for a yet-to-be-determined necklace!

The beads accompanying the centerpiece turn out to be very simple: sand cast African glass from the yellow drawer with a hue so close to the flowers that they were destined to be together.  These beads have been made in Ghana since the 1600s.  In their unique process, pulverized glass is poured into a clay mold, with a local cassava reed placed where the hole should be.  The mold goes into a furnace which heats it up to where it congeals, and the cassava burns away.

I also used a few interlocking flower disc beads, also made in Africa and used as trade beads (more on trade beads in blog dated February 8, 2017). Find them in the back of the brooch and at the end of the necklace.

A fun clasp makes the back look good. A vintage resin button serves as a toggle to the black glass circle.  Earwires are blackened silver with matching beads.

The necklace is 21” long; the centerpiece is 1.5” diameter. $99 for set.

 

Here is an image of one of my other purchases at the Recycled Exhibit—a clever repurposing of faux pearls studded with silver solder and attached to two intertwined chains. It has become my go-to daily necklace when I’m dashing out of the house and no time to choose one of my own creations. Also a quotidian!

Drawer 20: Yellow Jade

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

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

Week 20/Drawer 20: May 17, 2017: “Care of the Soul”

 

I thought a drawer full of yellow jade would make for a bland necklace until I came across some wonderful artist-made lampwork glass in the yellow jade tone with relief-providing beige highlights! Thank you, Sheila Checkoway (Mass.)!

Sheila was featured in a homage to women glass artists in my blog dated April11, 2016. This necklace contains 20 of her beads, each slightly different, and 22 beads of yellow jade.  Sheila also found the centerpiece, a blade of kyanite, on her travels in Tanzania, Africa.

Kyanite is an aluminum silicate mineral (crystal) found in the long blade format you see here. Blue is the most common color but this orange tone was recently discovered.  I also purchased two longer blades that are quite orange; this centerpiece is subtle in its orange and harmonizes well with the yellow jade tones.  Google raves about its amazing metaphysical properties, so check it out if that is your interest. I shall summarize it thusly; kyanite is a bridge, an extraordinary crystal that creates pathways where none existed before.

 

 

I discovered yellow jade in Hong Kong, site of an incredible Jade Market accessible to all, but you will have to wait until Drawer 49 to see the unique green color of local jade, bought at the Jade Market in the 90’s, for more info on that subject! Yellow jade is less available than green jade or new jade which is a pale shade of green.

The Chinese started mining yellow jade in 6000 BC. Confucius (551—479 BC) thought it had properties that encouraged purity, bravery and honesty.  Its yellow varies from lemon to golden; I have mostly the shade you see here which in my mind is mustard seed.  Its yellow properties are caused by iron leaching during its weathering stage.  Yellow jade was beloved by Emperors and the Imperial Court; mostly sculpted into imposing foo dogs and pagodas.

The necklace is 19” and has a brass clasp and vermeil beads. Matching earrings.  $119.