Whimsey Bird

A touch of whimsy always makes my day.

This lampwork glass bird is one of many whimsical beads Stephanie Sersich, Topsham, Maine, creates.  Sersich today is 43 years old and introduced herself to the bead world at age 25 with a public lecture and an article in the legendary “Lapidary Journal.”   Two big influences contributing to her success are her creative Mom and a major in metalsmithing and painting.  As she says, “I learned engineering and color which led me to making my own glass beads.”

She then developed her own “Spiny Knotting” method to allow her to bind many of her colorful beads into a single bracelet or necklace.  Check them out on her website sssbeads.com.

I have often wondered why I preferred the hunt for fabulous beads like Stephanie’s instead of making them.  It has a lot to do with the fact that my youthful focus was on getting an English degree, living in Paris and Lisbon, and being a corporate HR professional.  I didn’t buy my first bead until I was 50 and living in Hong Kong, entertaining myself while my husband organized his company’s South Asian footprint.  But I loved the hunt!  From the Hong Kong Jade Market to Beijing’s outdoor flea markets, Shanghai’s treasure-filled antique shops, from small entrepreneurial silver shops in Bali, to the giant pieces of turquoise I found in Tibet, and the amazing beads on small Indonesian islands of Sumba, Komodo, and Flores.  For two years, I never thought of making my own beads.  Just acquiring them.

And I can safely say that is true today, 25 years later.  I was determined, however, to put my own creative stamp on each necklace.  To balance color and texture, to be bold, chunky and fearless, but above all to never stop searching for the odd, eccentric, remarkable bead.  And to do that, I expanded my search to fulfill the true definition of a bead:  something with a hole in it which can be strung.

Stephanie’s bird and fiber dangle is 3.5″ and the pink Czech glass bead necklace is 24″.  Featured in the necklace are molded glass pre-war German semi-circle beads plus glass flowers at the end of the necklace and in the earrings.  $139.

 

Venice: Is It Goodbye?

It was during my last few hours in Venice, sipping my last Aperol Spritz, this bag on a gal’s shoulder was suddenly at eye level with me.

She let me take a picture and I just saved 1000 words.

Venice grabbed hold of me on my first visit in the 80’s.

Don and I returned on a cruise in the late 90’s.

I went back in 2013 and blogged about it here on June 29 of that year.

I went again on May 5, after a cooking trip in Verona, convinced I would say goodbye.  Maybe I will; there are so many other places to explore.

Verona was certainly one:  Roman and medieval in art & architecture, handsome of people, lovers of dogs, low prices, fashion-forward, great food and Prosecco!

Venice does not reveal herself so quickly.  Venice is a mystery.  Venice causes you to get lost, give up looking at your map, and allow you to discover.  Some delights I found include door knockers, Carnival shops with ready made costumes and masks as well as artists’ studios for custom masks, marbled papermakers, old churches with amazing art, food markets with interesting restaurants close by, cafes, canals small and large with their bridges just tall enough for a gondolier or delivery boat to glide under,

 

 

 

 

 

and building decoration,

such as a stone carving

or this magnificent Della Robbio.

 

 

 

There was something very new this time:  chichetti, pronounced chi-ket-ti. Wine bars!  Stand up only, serving wine, beer and prosecco from which the Aperol Spritzer is made.  Looking out my hotel window on the rainy windy Sunday I arrived, I noticed a group of people milling around a storefront with drinks in hand.  I grabbed my umbrella and went to inspect.

So glad I did.  I ordered an Aperol Spritz…paid my 3 Euros and wondered how they can make money at those low prices ($3.37)!?  There was a bench for two inside and there I perched, chatting with Sam, the owner/barman about this novel concept.  His space was 23 square meters (247 square feet!!!)  He also served slices of French bread with toppings such as prosciutto or salami.  One euro!

Monday was Murano glass bead shopping with several opportunities to get lost and Tuesday was a discovery day on a route never traveled before to end up at the Rialto Fish Market.  Lunch at a fish restaurant on the Grand Canal.  Both days were sunny and concluded with a stop at Sam’s chichetti.  There were three times as many people as on rainy Sunday.  Volume is how they make a profit.

That concludes the travelogue.  A brief philosophical analysis will help with the “Is it Goodbye?” decision.  I’m kidding, it’s not philosophical.  I operate a lot by intuition.  To that end, there are three incidents to ponder:

  1. As I am dining in the hotel restaurant at a table with a view of the bridge over its canal, an older nicely-dressed gentleman pauses on the top of the bridge, turns to gaze behind him, then continues across.  I believed he was saying goodbye.  Like me.
  2. Back in my room, I gaze out the window and see a sea gull gliding along the canal.  When he gets to the hotel, he turns back and flies into the dusk.  He too is saying goodbye and going somewhere else.

3. I bought a charm for the Tiffany’s bracelet my friend Sandra gave me. It is the large heart on the right.

It says “Please return to VENEZIA.”

I confused myself.  This doesn’t say goodbye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Springtime! Nightingale’s Eye.

“Nightingale’s Eye”

The nightingale, a European thrush, is unknown to Americans other than through its history as a romantic, even poetic, bird with an amazing night song. (1)

Before I connect this necklace to my chosen title, let me tell you how I choose titles for my necklaces…and why I choose titles.

First, why title a necklace? I started making bead jewelry in 1993 while living in Hong Kong with nothing to do but wander while my husband was on an 18-month work assignment. While wandering, beads seemed to attach themselves to me. Since an acquisition gene controls a part of my life, I just collected beads. Soon I had to hide them under the bed. No surprise, my husband asked me why I had so many beads…Surprisingly, I answered, “To make necklaces!”

Oops. A commitment. Good reply, it turns out. I started at the dining room table in Hong Kong and liked what I did. I had fabulous beads. Still do. So I made some decisions: this is my business; it’s appropriate to make a profit so I can keep buying beads without guilt; I’m now an artist; therefore I treat my work like a painting (Important insight. I had plexiglass boxes made so I can hang my works like two-dimensional art.) Also, I titled my work. Whew, took two paragraphs to answer that one.

How I choose titles. When we returned to Menlo Park from Hong Kong, while reading the NYTimes Book Review, I started underlining catchy phrases. Mind you, only an English major wants to memorialize catchy phrases. Then I listed them on notepaper. I did this for less than a year. I just went to my studio to count the pages–23. I still use them and have never expanded the lists.

When I finish a necklace, I prepare a tag. First is the title. The feeling of the necklace is fresh in my mind as I review the lists and a title that corresponds jumps at me. It’s totally intuitive. So simple.

Back to the nightingale and the necklace. I recently named this necklace and when I started writing today, discovered how an intuitive pick from my long list of titles was the correct karmic choice.

There is a Ukraine legend that a nightingale flew to Ukraine from India and heard only sad songs, so it sang its song to cheer them up. The people responded with happy songs, and since then, nightingales visit Ukraine each spring to hear happy folk songs. This was my spring necklace, created in the winter, correctly, if surprisingly, so named for spring. Full circle.

Details: it is 20.5” long accompanied by earrings that are 1.5” long. $119 the set. The necklace features a lampwork glass heart by Louise Erskine (MA) and two large Venetian blown glass beads. The remaining beads are rock crystal and faceted glass crystals. I love how the aqua of the crystals refracts through the clear beads. Sterling silver clasp.


To hear a nightingale sing, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TepTnlERuRo

Max will turn one year on April 12. I shall post a birthday salute!

Happy Valentine’s Day 2019

In New England, Valentine’s Day is inexorably linked to the weather which is usually snow, sleet or ice. I started making these necklaces during the weekend of the Martin Luther King holiday. Ice was the weather horror of that weekend. With a forecast of snow followed by rain followed by single digit overnight temps, I planned for a forced two-day homestay by shopping for tasty food. I stocked crab cakes, cod which I cook Mediterranean style, lobster meat for a Lobster roll as well as sautéed over angel hair pasta. I did not forget Chardonnay and Merlot!

The three necklaces shown below were strung on the sofa in front of a fire with the dog Max curled up on his spot. It was a pleasurable two days with no broken bones since the furthest I went was to the deck gate to let Max out…after pouring hot water to defrost the gate latch.

I decided to string simple seed beads and save the excitement for the dangles that are such fun to assemble. Descriptions follow, left to right.

  • Red glass “pony” (a big seed bead) necklace, 22” long with a gold metal heart clasp. Dangle of 4” with large gold metal circle as the connector. Featured beads are Murano red glass with foil interior; red glass hearts and assorted gold metal charms. $47.
  • Small gold metal round beads make the 19” long necklace and simple hook and eye clasp. Dangle of 3.5” featuring an off-white heart plus 4 gold metal hearts plus an angel making music. $39.
  • Sparkling red glass seed bead necklace, 21”, with a creative silver metal clasp. Dangle of 3.5” featuring two Murano foil glass hearts, assorted red hearts and a sterling silver and crystal small dangle. $42.

A search of my “HEARTS” box produced three gems that I could just put on a chain and present at a low price because my labor is negligible (unlike stringing those seed beads). I show them in the second photo. Again, from the left.

  • Blue and white Murano glass bead on a 20.5” on a silver mesh chain. $20.
  • Large (2.25” wide by 2” high) lime green with copper and silver foil designs embedded on a 36” copper “key chain” which I (or you) can easily make shorter. $20.
  • Simple and contemporary 18” silver chain with a stylized silver heart and gold patch. $20.

 

 

 

 

 

Certain dog-loving readers have asked for more Max photos. I shall graciously let him steal the spotlight every other month. This is Max on the sofa, which is for play as well as rest in his mind.  He is just shy of 9 months of age.

GOLDSTONE

“Grand Illusion”

As I reach the end of my second regular blogging year (weekly in 2017; monthly in 2018 and onward…), this Goldstone research produced my first big “Aha!”

For almost 25 years, I have assumed Goldstone was one of my beloved semi-precious stones found in Nature.  It’s called stone, right?  But no!  It is a glass product cooked up by artisans!  I am not disappointed, dear readers, because it still is a fabulous glittering glass and it makes a great necklace.  I am now informed!

The original goldstone manufacturing process was developed in 17th century Venice (and Murano) by the Miotti family and exclusively licensed to them by the Doge.  The ingredients include silica, copper and other metal oxides to produce glass containing tiny crystals of metallic copper.

I have also used blue goldstone which I now know substitutes cobalt for copper.

This 22″ necklace contains two sizes of facteted goldstone with a center bead called a briolette, also faceted, which plays up the glitter very nicely.  Copper clasp and matching earrings.  $69 for the set.

 

 

 

 

Bauxite.

“Crossroads”

I wonder how many of my dear readers said “Bauxite?”

Well, that is what I said when I bought these oddly interesting beads over twenty years ago.  And all I knew was aluminum is made from bauxite.

Turns out there is a small village 60 miles north of Accra, Ghana, Africa, that maintains a relationship with the bauxite-bearing hills just 2 miles away.  For four generations, the families of Abompe have the exclusive market on bauxite beads.  The hills are also the abode of their guardian spirit who protects the village from over-exploitation of the bauxite.

Everyone in the village has a different role in the making of a bead:

  • miners make the 3-hour trip to do their work
  • miners sell lumps of raw material to village families
  • a family member smashes lumps into smaller pieces
  • a different family member forms beads with a knife made from a worn-out machete
  • a kid drills holes in the beads with a spindle contraption made from wood and metal.
  • kids string the beads on wire (recycled from motor vehicle spokes)
  • someone polishes the beads on a grinding stone, resulting in a dull colored bead.
  • The last step is the person who treats the beads with oil to make them shiny.

Back to the necklace I am presenting today,  notice the natural crevices, especially in  the center bead.  BTW, these beads date from the early 1900’s.  The  brick color (from the iron naturally found in bauxite) continues to develop shine from the human necks who have worn these beads for the last century, minus the 20 years they have sat in my apothecary chest drawers.

Other beads in the necklace are Mozambique glass trade beads and yellow-dyed coco beads.  I am feeling compelled to tell you I bought the trade beads in a flea market in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1966 when Mozambique was struggling to gain its independence from Portugal.  Believe me, I had no idea that 30 years later, I would be having fun designing bead necklaces!

The clasp is hammered brass.  The necklace measures 26″ and weighs 6 oz.  $89.

Multi-Strand Woven Necklace with Agate. Puppy update.

“Celtic Twilight”

This necklace has many fascinating beads with too many stories, so I shall focus only on the amazing agate stone centerpiece which has two sides and two personalities.  I will list all the beads for my readers’ information.

Agate really is just a stone living in volcanic host rocks discovered in the third century on the shore of a river in Sicily…think Mt. Etna.

Most agates are hollow and in the form of a geode.  Slices like this one are cut from the outside of the geode; the inside is called drusy quartz.   This agate is probably Brazilian identified by its brown color interlaced with white and gray with striking layered bands.  This is high end agate; ordinary agate is found as gravel in streams.

 

The stone centerpiece pictured here and above inspired this necklace’s colors:  warm and inviting.

 

It can be worn on either side.

 

This is a woven necklace with four strands started at the bottom.  The threads were pulled through the agate and then four threads were each loaded with beads, looped through a main bead, knotted, and so on, up each side.  The clasp is vermeil (14k gold over sterling silver).

 

Here is a list of my favorite beads in the necklace:  yellow and white “sugar beads”, my name, called crackle glass by other beaders; copal, opaque and beigey, which I have often described as young amber; white vintage Japanese cut glass; small white-striped  Venetian trade beads; semi-precious citrine chips; yellow jade; pale yellow vintage pre-war German pressed glass (three are seen at the clasp).

This necklace measures 21″ plus 7″ for the centerpiece and dangles.  It weighs 6.8 ounces.  It is not heavy to me since it is dispersed over 4 strands. Wear your own gold earrings with it.  $145.

Here is Max, the Labradoodle, now 19 weeks old.  Still a pesky puppy, but doing well in  obedience classes.  He is showing loving traits, follows me everywhere, and loves being outside!

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.

 

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.

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.