Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Fine Feathered Friends

My beau and I moved into our current home one year ago in April.  We instantly fell in love with the balcony overlooking our new overgrown yard--we had just moved from a small apartment where the concrete balcony looked out on another apartment building.  One day, while taking in the view from our new second-story porch, we noticed a striking blue bird hopping around our yard with an entire peanut (in the shell) in his beak.  We watched while this funny fellow found just the right spot and, using the peanut as a shovel, dug a tiny hole for his treat.  He then carefully placed the peanut in the hole, tamped it down with his beak, and covered it up with some dead leaves.

   We were terribly amused by this unusual bird, and began to pay close attention to his antics every time we were outside.  We soon noticed that he was not alone: he had a mate. And they both had a penchant for peanuts in the shell.  After doing some research, I found out that our beautiful cerulean friends were called Western Scrub Jays.  Unlike many other types of birds, the female and the male have more or less the same brilliant coloring.  I also discovered that they are extremely intelligent as far as non-human animals go, and that they can be trained to eat (peanuts, of course) from one's hand.

Naturally, I went out and bought a big ol' bag of peanuts.  At first, we would just set the peanuts on the back railing and watch from a distance as the Scrub Jays would come pick up a treat and then hunt for a good spot in which to bury it. We slowly got closer and closer to the birds, until one day I placed a small pile of peanuts on my outstretched palm and watched with wonder and amazement as one of these wild creatures perched there for quite some time, picking out the perfect nut from the pile.

We've been feeding these lovely Jays for nearly a year now, and each day they become more accustomed to their human benefactors.  They even go so far as to hop into the house if I leave the door open, begging for their beloved peanuts.  

Inspired by the amazing coloring of my honorary pets, I created these "Scrub Jay Way" earrings.  I used Swarovski crystals for maximum color saturation and bling, and I loosely followed a pattern made famous by fantastic jewelry artist, Laura McCabe.  Enjoy!

Have you made any wildlife-inspired pieces?  We would love to see them!

Bead On,


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bragging or Thanking

To those of you who read our blogs, it should come as no surprise when we say how much we love Vintaj products.   Of course, we carry all their products, and we hope you will always get them from our website.  

HOWEVER, you absolutely must visit the Vintaj site, especially the Vintaj Idea Gallery. They have hundreds and hundreds of designs.   It's almost embarrassing how many times one of their projects can make you mutter to yourself, "I would never have thought of using that piece like *that*!"

So we were pretty excited when we saw a recent bunch of Vintaj Idea projects using some of our beads.  The projects are so beautiful, we just wanted to thank Vintaj, and share them with you.  Yes, okay, we are bragging about it, too.

Floating Floret
Forest Faerie
First up, the Floating Floret necklace (l) mixes Vintaj Brass & Vintaj Arte Metal.  It uses some of our Czech table cut beads, and Czech drop beads, among others.

The lovely Forest Faerie necklace (r) utilizes more table cuts, and some opaque and two-tone fire polish beads.

Gatekeeper Necklace
The stunning Gatekeeper Necklace makes use of our freshwater pearls and more fire polish beads to help evoke the entrance to the Emerald City of Oz.  The intricate layerings of color and pattern in this piece are truly magical.

Anthropology Treasure
I have to confess, the Anthropology Treasure Necklace is my favorite out of this bunch.  It's not just because one of our hand-picked beads forms the centerpiece (okay, that is pretty cool).  It's the clever and wonderful way this bead has been made to look like a mysterious and antique artifact.  Was it part of an ancient jade statue?  A ceremonial weapon?  A symbolic charm of power for some ancient priest or warrior?  I know *I* never thought of anything like this when I purchased these beads.  How wonderful that Rose Noble at Vintaj has!

St. Patty Earrings
Obviously, the Vintaj team has been following a green theme here, and if you haven't realized why, this last project should make it clear.  The St. Patty Earrings design features some Czech leaf beads, and some pretty unique freshwater pearls we had in stock until they sold out.  

Pearls and stone beads often have that issue - it is usually difficult to get identical stock in again of the more unusual colors and shapes.  So if you see pearls or gemstones you like, you should get while you can, whether you are shopping online or at a gem show.  

Pretty neat projects, right?   Check the Vintaj Idea Gallery often, there are always new wonders to be seen.  And you can make lots of them with the help of Vintaj and Beadaholique.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Get The Look

The Oscars have been handed out, the Red Carpet rolled up, the celebrities are recovering from the after parties--the Academy Awards have come and gone.  I have a confession to make:  I was more interested in who everyone was wearing than who won which award.  To put an even finer point on it, I was mostly interested in the jewelry.  Surprise, surprise, right?

There were many gorgeous pieces from all of the grand jewelry houses, including Chopard, Harry Winston, Tiffany, Neil Lane, Fred Leighton, and Cartier.  It seemed as though this year many of the celebs were going for the vintage estate jewelry feel with lots of color and interesting shapes.  I adore that antique costume jewelry look, so as you can imagine, I was in seventh heaven!

I decided it might be fun to pick at least one of the many stunning pieces and try to create the "Beadaholique Look For Less" version.  After mulling over my choices (trust me, this was a tough decision) I finally picked one special item.  And the winner is...  Best Actress Natalie Portman's drool-worthy Rubellite tassel earrings designed by Paloma Picasso for Tiffany and Co.

Ms. Portman was simply glowing, with her baby bump concealed by a sumptuous eggplant colored empire-waisted gown.  The best part of her outfit, in my humble opinion, was that ravishing pair of earrings.  With a few minor adjustments, i.e. omitting the diamonds, using gold plated instead of solid gold, and substituting some deep red Toho seed beads for the pricey burgundy-colored Rubellite gemstones, I believe I came up with a rather fetching homage.

Watch our web site for the forthcoming instructions on how to make these red-carpet-ready earrings!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Designer Profile and Interview: Andrew Thornton

Andrew Thornton is a professional fine artist who left behind the hustle and bustle of New York City for rural Pennsylvania. His work can be seen in private collections around the globe. Andrew works part time with his family at Green Girl Studios. He is a regular contributor to Stringing Magazine (an Interweave Press publication) and Bead Trends.  His designs can be found in Margot Potter's book titled, "Bead Chic", Jean Campbell's book, "Steampunk-Style Jewelry: A Maker's Collection of Victorian, Fantasy, and Mechanical Designs", Tammy Powley’s book, “The Complete Photo Guide to Making Jewelry” and Barb Switzer's book, "Four Seasons of Beading". Andrew was also the technical editor of his sister, Cynthia Thornton's book, "Enchanted Adornments: Creating Mixed-Media Jewelry with Metal Clay, Wire, Resin & More."

We sat down (in a virtual way) with Andrew and let our curiosity get the better of us.  Andrew is an interestingly-faceted artist, as you will see below, and we were not disappointed.

Okay, first the obvious question --how did you get interested in making jewelry?

They say that necessity is the mother of invention.  When we were growing up it was also the mother of our creativity for my siblings and me.  We didn’t have a lot of extra money for store-bought amusements and instead fashioned our entertainment from found objects and discounted craft store specials.  That’s where it all started, but didn’t really get serious until after my college years.  My sister, Cynthia (who owns and operates Green Girl Studios) needed help at a bead show and I thought it’d be fun and that I could help out.  Little did I know that I’d be hooked!

What is your educational background in the arts?

I received my BFA at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and attended several residency programs there as well.  My concentration was in painting and mixed media art.  By far, my favorite art subject was collage.  It still is.

Besides collage, are you creating art in media other than jewelry? 

I draw at least a line a day to remind myself that I’m an artist.  I think that my jewelry work is better when all parts of my brain are active and when I’m engaged with non-jewelry applications of my creativity.  So when I can squeeze in time, I love drawing, painting and creating collages.

How would you describe your design aesthetic?

“Narrative” is the best word that I could use to describe my work.  Whether I am making a piece of jewelry or another form of artwork, I like to consider the meanings and symbolisms behind the elements that I am incorporating.  So even if I’m working in a stark, abstract style… the colors, lines and shapes all have histories that tell a story.

What inspires your creative process?

The world around me is filled with inspiration.  Everything has a story.  I begin my process my absorbing as much information as possible.  This takes many forms; the primary one being observation.  The pattern of the grain of wood, the texture of concrete, the color of an old love letter… these are all grains of information stored away for when they’re ready to be used.  Another thing that I like to do is read and look at the art of others.  Both of these practices enrich my work and allow me to learn from others.

Who inspires you creatively?

I think one of the most important things we can do as artists, is surround ourselves with other creative individuals and to learn from those who came before us.  We all have something to share.  When it comes to fine art, I look to Lee Bontecou, Ross Bleckner, Yayoi Kusama, Lucas Samaras, Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keefe, the Pre-Raphaelites, Egon Schiele, Monica Cook, Kiki Smith, Cheryl Donegan, Tobi Kahn, Jess, Bruce Conner, Louise Bourgeois, and Agnes Martin to name a few.  When it comes to jewelry and jewelry components, I am drawn to Anne Choi, Bob Burkett, Barb and Russell of Scattered Light, Candice Wakumoto, Kate McKinnon, my sister Cynthia Thornton, Heather Wynn-Millican, Kathy Van Kleeck and Nina Bagley to name a few.  

Do you work best in chaos or an orderly workspace?  Are you a morning person or a night owl?

I won’t lie.  My workspace is chaotic.  I’ve got postcards, prints, images and art all over my walls, I have piles of beads, papers, and supplies everywhere and I thrive in environments where I can make a mess.   I am definitely a night owl.  While I am forced to be operational during the day, I am most productive at night.  It could be because it is most quiet then.  My brain comes alive and I am able to throw myself completely into my work.

How do you arrive at the color palettes in your jewelry work?

 I use a lot of color theory in my flat work and that has definitely influenced how I put together my palettes for jewelry.  Also, mythology and folklore (two of my passions) are laden with color symbolism and much of that gets translated into my work as well.  When I begin a body of work, I always create a new color wheel.  I snap photographs of the things around me and use that as a source of inspiration and direction.

What are your current favorite materials to use for making jewelry?   

I adore copper and fine silver.  I also love gemstones, particularly garnets, rubies, kyanites, and sapphires.  Rough stones and simple-cut stones are some of my favorites and I tend to gravitate towards them.  I also use a lot of earthy ceramics.  I like to contrast the organic of the porcelain and stoneware with crystals and a little bit of sparkle.   

Is there a jewelry-making technique that you are currently fascinated with or using a lot?

When I first started out, I used to get so frustrated by wire-wrapping.  Now it is second nature and almost all of the pieces I create have some form of wire-wrapping.  Sometimes it’s pretty straightforward and other times it’s more complex, like tiny woven baskets and miniature reliquaries all made of wire.  I have also started using enamels again.  It hasn’t been since college when I last used them, but I recently took a fantastic class from Barbara Lewis and am looking forward to incorporating enamels back into my repertoire.  It’ll be interesting to fuse my love of working with wire with my new found passion for all things enameled.

Is there a jewelry-making technique that you haven’t tried yet but want to?

If it was up to me, I’d split myself in two and one of me would just learn everything there is possible, absorbing as many traditions and ways of doing things as I could.  Sadly, since I haven’t mastered cloning or harnessing a doppelganger, I will have to make do with more realistic goals.  Eventually I’d like to try my hand at stone-carving and lapidary work.  I’ve done a couple things, but it would be nice to learn the right way.  I’d also like to try and incorporate electroforming.  I’ve had some miserable failures and would like to successfully tuck it under my belt.

What is the favorite piece of jewelry or art that you own?

I’m a magpie by nature, so I have a lot of pieces that I love.  Some of my  prized possessions include sterling silver beads from Anne Choi, a tiny fine silver and beach glass box from Kathy Van Kleeck, ceramic sculptures by Esther Shimazu, a reliquary necklace from Daniel Essig, hand-painted ceramics from Gina Marie Chalfant, and fragile embroidered textile pieces by Iviva Olenick.  Of course, I have many other things that are my favorites!

Who is your favorite jewelry designer/artist?

That’s a really hard question to answer, because I love so many different artists and jewelry designers.  Depending on what I’m working on and where my brain is going a particular day changes my top ten.  Those who inspire me and move me as an artist definitely are my favorites.

Are there other areas of your life that you feel are enriched by your creation of jewelry?

Being an artist, a maker of jewelry and of things, doesn’t just end at the studio door.  When you train your eye to identify distinctions in color and shape and line, that ability is carried with you in your day-to-day activities.  When you stop to hear the stories of things, you listen more closely to everything around you.  Everything you do becomes an act of art.  When you make dinner, you’re creating a story and expressing yourself.  My life is richer, deeper and better for having embraced my artistic Muses and following after them.
Where can people can see or purchase your work? 

Due to time constraints, I don’t have much work available on hand.  It’s hard to keep up with a production schedule.  However, my work can be commissioned by special request.  Occasionally I have pieces available in my online shop: http://andrewthornton.bigcartel.com/products

I will also be debuting some Calder-inspired pieces, that will be available for purchase, at the Glitterganza event at the Mingei Museum in San Diego.  The event, spearheaded by Kate McKinnon for the Bead Society of San Diego, takes place on April 16th, 2011 from 10AM to 3PM.  Expect to see all manner of otherworldly crowns, bracelets and necklaces forged by hammer and flame.

I’m also going to be holding workshops with Kate McKinnon in Asheville, New York City, and Paris.   They are called, “Capturing the Moment” and focus on blogging, writing, photography and shopping.  We’ll be teaching in Asheville October 19th – 22nd, 2011.  In 2012, we’ll be teaching in New York May 7th- 13th and in Paris (and the French Countryside) September 17th – 24th.

For more information and sign-ups:

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