Beau Dangles

Handcrafted Jewelry — Designed to be Different


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Create 5 Art Challenge — Day 2

Here is my offering for the second day of the Art Challenge.

Some years ago I acquired a small package of abalone shell fragments. Today seemed like the right time to use them. 🙂

The word abalone actually refers to a large group of small to very large edible sea snails. Some wild forms are endangered but most abalone consumed today come from farmed sea snails.

These pieces are from the inner shell which is made of nacre (the same material that real pearls are made of). The nacre produces the amazingly iridescent colours which change depending on how the light hits them.Gorgeous!

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Tinfoil. Who knew?

Sterling silver jewelry is beautiful. It can also be kinda yucky when tarnish sets in, as it will eventually.

Some people like the dark patina. In fact you can actually use certain chemicals to speed up the tarnish.

But what if you want that shiny look?

You can buy special polishing cloths that do a pretty good job of bringing back the sparkle — but if you’re dealing with something small, like ear wires, those cloths don’t work quite as well.

I needed to clean up several pairs of heavily tarnished ear wires. I looked online for answers and found one that used tinfoil and baking soda.

Huh?

It sounded weird but several people swore it worked. I gave it a try.

  • In a heat-proof bowl (I used glass), place a piece of tinfoil.
    (One recipe said to crinkle it in the bottom. Another said place it flat. I tried it both ways.)
  • Place the ear wires on the tinfoil.
  • Sprinkle them with 1 or 2 teaspoons of baking soda.
    (I used enough to cover the pieces with a bit to spare.)
  • Gently pour in boiling water, enough to cover the ear wires and tinfoil.
  • Wait 5 or 6 minutes — water the plants, play with your dog or make a cuppa.
  • Rinse the wires in cool clean water. Dry.

You know the saying: When something seems to good to be true, it usually is. 

Not this time.

This stuff works. Really. This little chemistry lesson in a bowl gave me back a pair of shiny ear wires. Wow.

As for using crinkled or flat tinfoil, I couldn’t see the difference. Wait time? You can see the reaction take place so when things are shiny, take them out. Lightly tarnished pieces will be ready sooner than ones with a heavy layer.

Magic aside, I wanted to know why this worked. If you’re curious about the answer check out this explanation.

Spoiler Alert: If you have sterling silver jewelry with gemstones, pearls or beads you’ll need to do further research before trying this technique.


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Easy Earring Display

I’m teaching a new class on earring making and needed a way to display samples so that prospective students could see firsthand what they might make.

I tried several ideas but none of them showed the earrings off to advantage — they looked crammed together and uninviting.

Styrofoam to the rescue!

I have several pieces of styrofoam that I use under display cloth at my show booth. Also in my stash of why-did-I-ever-buy-these things were some pins I’d bought years ago and never used.

I covered the styrofoam with a large sheet of white paper. I did a neat, taped down fold to finish it off so that I could pin earring samples to all 4 sides.

Sytrofoam block

The tricky part was getting the display to stand upright without falling over. I thought about making a base around the foam but didn’t have time.

Instead I made foldover loops of masking tape, stuck them on the bottom of the foam and then stuck that into the bottom of a pretty glass plate. I filled the plate with dried beans to add more support and to finish off the display.

This turned out to be a quick and easy display and it didn’t cost me anything (always a nice benefit).

While I’ve used it to show off individual earrings, it could be used to display earring pairs. Although I put most of my earrings on individual cards, I also have some discounted and sale earrings that sit in a small basket. This upright display would show them all at a glance.

Since these forms are easy to make you could create a nice tiered effect by adding 1 or 2 more of different heights. When earrings sell and you want to add another pair, use the same pinholes to keep it looking neat.


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Earring Bling Class

Earrings are fun to wear — and even more so when you’ve made them yourself. If you’d like create your own earrings you might want to sign up for my new class Earring Bling! 

The class is designed for beginners (more experienced jewelry makers are also welcome). I’ll take you step by step through the process from idea to finished piece. At the end of the evening you’ll have 3 pairs of lovely earrings.

I bring all the supplies — beads, crystals, pearls, charms and more — and the tools. I’ll have earring samples you can use for inspiration or you can create your own designs. If you have beads or charms at home you’d like use, be sure to bring them along.

The class runs Wednesday June 10 at the Sundre Library. Registration is limited to 8 people. Please call the Library to register (403) 638-4000.


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The Possibilities of Less

Do you ever long for a bigger stash of beads? More wire? Better tools? Do you dream of all the things you could create if only …  ?

I do.

But something weird happened lately that changed my mind.

My first show of the season was quickly approaching when a dreadful truth hit: I don’t have enough new pieces. 

But that wasn’t the worst part.

I had only a skimpy supply of materials with me: wire, a few pieces of old jewelry, some glass beads, and a couple of Swarovski pearls. A gloomy prospect.

Why, oh why, I whined, hadn’t I brought more stuff? 

Like Mother Hubbard, I gazed at my almost-empty cupboard. Impending doom settled on me.

I needed new work. And I needed it now.

Out came the hammers and pliers and wire cutters. I hammered and texturized. I twisted and bent. I strung beads and coiled wire.

It took awhile, but after several mistakes I got into a creative vibe. Where I’d seen limitations I began to see designs. Lots of them. It was like someone sprinkled magic dust in the air.

By the time I finished I had 10 different pairs of earrings. Amazing. Who’da thunk all those pieces could have come from so little?

Best of all? At the show last weekend those earrings got the most attention — and brought the most sales.

Go figure.  Sometimes less really is more.   🙂


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Same Design, Different Colours

I bought some two-hole beads last winter, just because. Because they’ve been around for ages and I’ve never worked with them. That seemed a good enough reason.

I began with a complicated pattern. Not the best idea as I kept getting lost. So I reverted to a simple design and varied the colour of the accent beads.

Here’s the same design with red two-hole beads.

I look at these four pieces and see the same pattern. In chatting with visitors at the farmers’ market last weekend, however, most of them saw totally different pieces — they only saw the similarities when I pointed them out. Seeing is deceiving … 🙂


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A Six Pack of Earrings

One of the reasons I like making earrings is the oh-so-quick results. Well, “quick” compared to the hours and sometimes days it often takes me to design and finish a necklace.

I’ve been working on some bigger pieces lately, hit a bump in the process, so decided earrings would ease the frustration.

Mi Corazon


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Solitary Heart

I found these beautiful glass beads in southern Arizona. Depending on how the light hits them, they display various shades of blue and green. I planned to combine all three pieces in the necklace but after trying several designs the large heart seemed to work best on its own. Mi Corazon Hearts


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ReNewables

Old jewelry often finds its way into thrift stores and yard sales. It’s like a small tarnished treasure, waiting to be rediscovered. I made each of these from left-behinds — pieces that no one was interested in anymore.

I love the hunt! You have to look beyond the missing pearl, the broken clasp, the twisted chain and ask yourself What if …?

I’ve found some beautiful necklace clasps that outshine (no pun intended) many of the versions available today. Even covered in grime the workmanship is evident. A little gentle Ivory dishwashing soap, some warm water and voila! Its beauty is suddenly apparent.

I lucked out at a recent yard sale — I picked up nearly 20 pieces of lovely work for next to nothing but my time. Gonna have fun working with these! 😉


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Everything Old Is New Again

Before

A trip to a thrift store is like a treasure hunt. I never know what I’m going to find. Which makes it even more fun.

I was out at the Coast last week and spent several happy hours browsing through leftovers, give-aways and no longer wanted items.

At one store I found these Alaska Black Diamond earrings. Like the Ugly Duckling they didn’t look very appealing. They were long and heavy and clunky.

Ah, but that’s the challenge — could I design something more appealing? Sometimes I buy old jewelry just for the components. This time I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the focal beads.

AfterI brought the earrings home and carefully took them apart. Then I washed and dried everything.

The beads were strung on wire in the original design — I chose a balled head pin instead. The bugle beads added clutter so I set them aside. I topped each “vase” with the original round bead.

The French ear wires added additional length to the original design, making it even more awkward. I opted for post-and-ball findings, to echo the round bead and smooth curves of the focals.

I’m pleased with how they turned out — it’s definitely a case where less is more. 😉


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Folklorico

Folklorico ERsI had time on my hands and beads in the tray so … stitched a pair of earrings to match the Folklorico necklace I made earlier this summer.

The brick stitch worked up quickly — the first round is done on the inside of the hoop. The 3-bead picot is then added to the outside.

I like to work with one length of thread. Twenty-four inches was a good length on these 3/4 inch hoops.

A pretty design and one I’m going to use again. 😉


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Boo!

What’s with all the skulls? They seem to be an odd fashion statement — not one I thought I’d ever work with. But then I saw some in a bead store this week and thought, What the heck. I bought two. (They had to be different colours — you wouldn’t want to be caught dead wearing matching skulls.)

Dangling from ear wires they seemed rather lonely so I added a pair of matching hearts. Black. Of course.

BOO

P.S. If skulls don’t appeal, flip them upside down for a pair of plump puddy tats. 😉


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Wire Swirls

I’m no Wire Whisperer.

I’ve made a few pieces with wire over the years, but wrangling with it was hit and miss and before long I’d find myself returning to beads, my first love.

Maybe it’s all the rainy weather these past few months (and watching the garden turn into a rice paddy) but I dug out several spools of wire, some tools and set out to see what I might see.

Winding wire is always an easy place to start (it makes me feel like I’m actually doing something). Next I wondered how I might add some beads. Okay, maybe just one. Hmmm. What would that look like as an earring?

Not bad. I kinda like it.

Pink Swirl Earrings

My work surface always looks like a toddler’s playpen. Stuff everywhere. Sometimes this is a good thing. I laid one earring swirl down beside a coil of cotton cord. Shazam! Another idea. What would this look like as a necklace?

One swirl didn’t quite seem enough. Three seemed too much. Two, now that, as Goldilocks might say, is just right.

Pink Swirl - Necklace

P.S. The earrings sold at the Bergen Farmers’ Market yesterday. Hey, this is fun! 😉


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Copper Rings

The man who shares my pillow each night has a workshop filled with stuff. The other day I prowled through the little plastic drawers on his workbench and I hit the motherload — a tray of copper rings!

Luckily for me, he doesn’t have any use for them. They’re crushable washers that came with oil filters for a truck we no longer own. We struck a mutually agreeable bargain. I got the washers — he got 4 spools of Silamide I no longer use for beading.

Crushable copper washers

I picked out two washers, cleaned them off, then polished them with superfine (#0000) steel wool. They took on a lovely shine.

I added black rondelles and copper coils to handmade ear wires.

Shiny new earrings

Today I put two more washers on a steel block and gently flattened them with a chasing hammer. They stayed perfectly round. Tomorrow I’ll see what a riveting hammer does to them. Oooo, so much fun. 😉


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Silver Leaf

Silver LeafThe box in the corner of the shelf holds more than two dozen bags of glass leaves. Brown ones. Green ones. White and bronze. Red and grey. Top drilled. Side drilled. Matte, glossy and two-tone.

I accumulated this lot over several years but in all that time I’ve used hardly any. Whatever was I thinking?!?

The other day I pulled out one bag. Shiny, small and heavy, these leaves caught my eye right away. What could I make with them?

I found some wire and a couple of beads left over from a recent project and set out to see what might be.

I like this design so much I’ve made several other earrings using different leaves. I’d hate to run out if another neat idea comes by so I may just have to buy some more. 😉