Sunday, August 7, 2016


I don't know if parents have favorite kids, but I can tell you that designers have favorite projects. It is time again to submit classes for the next bead and Button Show, which is usually the time for me to come up with all sorts of new class offerings in general for next year.
To see what is new, click here.
You will see that I have added four new class projects. There is more in the making. There always is, things just take time.
My favorite, the one that took the most thinking, planning and love is called Japonica. It was quite the process to create this design.
It all started with a previous project called Sunrise and Sunset Shores. A friend of mine, Laurey Gilbert, who is a maker of gorgeous bead embroidered art introduced me to Jo Anne St James' polymer clay landscape cabochons. Jo Anne has an Etsy store, and I just picked two of my favorites to create that first design. It was an instant success. It has become my most popular class for 2016. Many of you Dearest Beady Readers have actually taken that class from me this year. Thank you all!
At the time of designing that piece, Jo Anne, who is a fellow painter and a dreamer of magic herself, offered to make me some special, exclusive cabs, just for my work. I knew I would take her up on her offer one day. Then the day came. The way this usually happens is that I get an idea in my head that just doesn't go away, sticks around and keeps coming back. This idea was about Japanese design and aesthetics in general. 
Simplicity and tranquility were things on my mind, something I wanted to portray with a piece of jewelry.
So I started talking to Jo Anne about creating me a cabochon that looks like Japanese watercolor paintings. Sort of like this.

Jo Anne thought this would be a great challenge, and she made magic happen. She was so thorough and inventive. She invented a whole new process to make me cabs that were just right. We had ongoing skype conversations, and she showed me her samples and thinking process. I wanted the cabs in two colors, one a foggy, muted silvery and stormy blue, and one very much like that in feel but in pink.
Let me show you Jo Anne's process:
She put so much effort and love and care into making them just right. I squealed when my order arrived. It looked like this:

It was everything I could wish for, now I just had to find a way to make the design worthy of the focals.
Besides the watercolor pictures, my other inspiration included pagodas.
( pagoda image by
The challenge was to incorporate architectural elements of the pagoda shape into a bracelet. And keep it in line with my idea of tranquility and simplicity. I wanted to carry the not quite stormy, not quite silver feel of that blue throughout the project. And  to have straight lines contrasting with points. 
Here is what came of my efforts, so far only in blue, but the pink colorway will happen soon enough too. I will start teaching this project next year, so there is time for that.

I hope that this design will be as popular next year as it's predecessor was this year. Thank you Jo Anne for making it happen! For those of you dear beaders who like Jo Anne's work, please visit her Etsy site here.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

I come bearing gifts...

.... Yes. A gift. And I will get to that shortly.
First, let me start with this: I have two bead embroidery videos available from Interweave!

This is what the cover looks like. If you are interested purchasing the videos, they are available directly through Interweave either as a digital download, or you can pre-order the dvds by clicking here.

Making videos is a daunting task. I went to a very nice studio where a professional makeup artist put so much makeup on me, I could have passed for a Kardashian. As a matter of fact, I don't think I ever had more makeup on.There were cameras everywhere, and lights too. There was a microphone attached to my shirt, and the little box that went with it attached to my heinie, and I had to remember to get someone to turn it off  every time I went to the bathroom. I managed to not forget, which is a good thing for me and all other parties involved .  It was great fun, but also scary as hell.

I had this initial idea that I would like to sound like Christopher Walken while filming these videos, the only thing that stopped me is that I am completely, utterly incapable of sounding like anyone else but myself. (There is one exception to this. I can imitate the sounds our old car's leaky windshield used to make every time it rained. But really, that's where my talents in the field end.) 

Meanwhile, so far this year I have traveled to 10 different states to teach classes, met lots of new people, made a great many new friends, and before the year is out, I have 7 more such trips.Which is to say, I have been busy. Good busy, but busy up to my eyeballs.
It's a good thing,  I am not complaining, as a matter of fact, I am enjoying it quite a bit.However, there are some things I simply don't have the time for as much as I used to.

This brings me to my original point of how I come bearing gifts:

Remember the pretty leafy cabs I used to sell in my Etsy store and all over the place, wherever I went. Well, as pretty as they are, they are a pretty big pain in the buttsy for me to make. They take days to make, my hands hurt for days after each batch, and I am done huffing E6000 too.... I can imagine much better ways of eradicating my precious little grey cells...( Think nothing more nefarious than the occasional gin and tonic.)

Anyhow, I won't be making them by the hundreds like I used to. I know, I know, it's so sad, everyone loves them. Well, hopefully everyone loves them enough to make their own, if I tell you all how to.

My gift to you on this lovely summer day, which happens to be a hundred degree day here in my hometown Boulder, is the secret recipe for my leafy cabs. My intention is to give you tips, sources, and set these cabs free in the wind, so everyone can make their own. But because I am really busy, that's all I can do. I tell you everything I am willing to share and leave it at that, and won't be answering questions about this subject. I am leaving for my next teaching trip to Alaska in a few days and have lots to do before that happens, so please no questions, no requests and no helpful suggestions. This is how it it. 
May you enjoy making your own cabs.

List of materials needed with sources:

-Rubbing Alcohol, cotton pads
-metallic leather scraps ( no link here, because I will sell these on Etsy, once I have some time after my trip, until then, you could just do your own search on this)
-Modpodge type glue and a cup to pour it in
-small flat paintbrush
-the glitziest, most sparkly nail polish you can get your hands on ( OPI makes some really good ones, and I love Ciate

Step 1.
-Put all your cabs in a colander, wash them vigorously with dish soap and water.
Set them to dry on some paper towel. 
-Once they are dry, wipe each clean with alcohol to remove any lingering water stains or other stains. Sort out the chipped ones or misshapen ones. (There is always a few.)

-Get your skeleton leaves out. Cut them to the shape of the cab you will be gluing it on to.
Instead of trying to cut out as many as you can from one leaf, focus on the prettiest part of the leaf, and only use each leaf for one or two cabs. The vein is much thicker at the bottom, try to avoid that area. 

Step 3.
-Pour some modpodge into the small container. Spread an even, generous layer onto the cabochon with your flat brush. It has to cover the entire surface, or you will end up with bubbles. Press the cutout leaf directly onto the wet glue, don't wait. Brush over the leaf again, once again, using a generous layer of modpodge.
Yes, your fingers will indeed be covered in glue. It's kind of fun peeling it all off on layers. Like a snake shedding.

Don't worry about the leaf overhanging the edge of the cabochon. You will be trimming it off later. Now you just want to let everything dry. It is super important that you let this dry completely before you move on, or you will end up with a cloudy mess on your hands.

Step 4. 
Don't cheat. Let it dry all the way.

Step 5.
Depending on how glitzy you want those rascals to be, it is your chance to go crazy with the sparkly nail polish you have been secretly stashing, or.... Not.
In this case, I wanted to show you my stash of nail polish and how it looks when applied....

A little goes a long way. Dab it on gently. 
And then, surprise! Let it dry all the way.
Mica powder would be fun to experiment with too, and alcohol inks as well. Really, the possibilities for decorating your leaves are endless.

Step 6.
Meanwhile, as you are watching your nail polish dry, get out the stash of metallic leathers. I have not listed a source for it, because you really only need scraps. I will be selling scraps just for this purpose in my Etsy store in August. Until then, if you don't have metallic leather scraps at home, get some holographic paper from Michael's or Joanne's from the scrap booking department . It will do. It is not quite the same, but it's the next best thing.

This part is the main reason I can't make these by the hundreds. Cutting the leather and also the skeleton leaves out in such quantities will surely cause pain. In my case even with the comfiest scissors, I lose feeling in my my thumb for a day after a batch of these. I know, I know. I could get a laser cutting thingamajig to cut things for me. If I did, I would not be writing this blog post sharing the joys of cutting little circles with you, Dearest Reader! But seriously, you don't want to mess with repetitive motion injuries, so be careful.

When cutting those circles out, stay inside the line. Even then your cutouts will need to be further trimmed later on.

Step 7.
Now that all your leather bitsies are cut to shape, get your E6000 out. Spread an even, generous, almost goopy layer onto the back of your dry cabs. All the way around, or you will get air bubbles.
Press a cutout onto the back of each and every cabochon.

 Make sure there are no air bubbles. Lay your cabs on a flat surface, and squeeze those pesky bubbles out by pressing down on your cab with your little fingers.Here I used a cookie sheet lined with baking paper and put the whole thing out on the balcony to dry.
Let everything dry for hours and hours. Or overnight. Especially if you don't like the fresh scent of E6000. 
Step 8.
Get your handy little scissors out and trim the edges off. No matter how precise you were with all the other steps, you will need to trim each and every cab thoroughly. I haven't got that far with today's production, so no more pictures unfortunately. But I should tell you that the very last step after trimming everything, is to seal your margins.
So get out your trusty little brush and modpodge again and seal those edges by painting a line of modpodge all the way around sealing leather to glass.

DOs and DON'Ts:
Do not just try to use modpodge and skip the E6000, or vice versa. There is a reason I use both. It works better, there are less bubbles and things are less likely to peel apart.

Do not try to cut either your leaves of leather to the perfect shape. No matter what you do, you will still have to hand trim every single cab later.

Do not worry if your first batch is not perfect. I have made thousands of them and some were just meant to fail. Some colors are better than others.
Do experiment.
Make them with friends, have gluing parties if you wish and make as many as you like. But be nice. Please give credit when credit is due. That is, if you want to sell them, please mention where you got the idea from, and do not publish any altered version of this process either in print or online. I shared it, but the process remains my intellectual property.
Thank you and enjoy!