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Bead Embroidered Filigree Cuff #4

Filigree Cuff #4

I’ve just completed the fourth cuff bracelet in this series, and I think it is my favorite thus far! Like the others, it centers around a vintage brass filigree, which is encrusted with vintage west German glass stones, Swarovski crystal, fire polish and Japanese glass seed beads. The inside of the cuff and the centerpiece are lined with periwinkle colored ultrasuede, and the outer edges of the bracelet showcase metallic bronze leather.

 The colors include matte metallic shades of peacock, olive-y bronze, purple and metallic bronze.

Filigree Cuff #3

I never really set out to make a “series” of these. I made the first one in 2008, at a point when I was using a lot of these old filigrees in my beadwork (I’ve also done barrettes and necklaces in this style). I really liked it, and the response from my customers was extremely positive. People started commissioning me to make them in specific color schemes.

Obviously, these are variations on a theme – but each one has a different color scheme, and utilizes a unique combination of vintage glass beads and stones from my collection. So they’re of the same family, but each has its own character.

Filigree Cuff #3

As I mentioned in my previous post, beadwork tends to be very meditative for me. As such, I often lose my sense of time when I am beading. I hadn’t been charging too much for these, because it seemed like they work up so quickly (in as much as beadwork ever works up quickly).

I made a point to log my working time on this last one, and I was quite surprised by how long it actually took! To be fair, I think #4 took longer than the others (I did quite a bit of “rippit” stitch 😉 but all the same, I realized that these pieces have a much greater time investment than I’d originally thought!

This newest variant is listed in my Etsy shop, and when I get a spare moment I will add it to my website as well.

Sadly, I only have a few more of these filigrees left, so I won’t be able to make many more of these cuffs. Bums me out, since I am really enjoying this series. I suppose that’s a good thing though – it ensures that it will be a limited edition series.

And of course, if I really want to continue with this style  after I’ve used all of the brass that I have, I can probably find some more old brass pieces. Doubt I’ll find more of the same style, so the new cuffs will have different shaping … but that’s a good thing 🙂

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Fast times…

Life is moving at high velocity this week; things are going well, it’s just very very busy. School projects, show dates, family visiting — and most importantly, my daughter’s graduation!! I’m so proud of her, and I really want her celebration to be special. To that end, I just might be making myself a little nuts…

Despite the kinetic pace, I’ve been able to get a bit of creative work in. I’m playing with a new style of hair wear — funky beaded and feathered leather hair forks (say that 10 times fast! 😉 as well as a handful of other new hair toys that I hope to unveil soon. My dream goal is to get to the point where I have something for all hair types.

I’ve also been getting a bit more beading time in, which is something that I’ve really needed. As much as I love mask making (and leatherwork in general), beadwork satisfies me on an entirely different level. Even my most elaborate leather pieces work up quickly compared to beadwork. With my crazy schedule, I don’t get nearly as much studio time as I’d like, and it’s so gratifying to be able to actually complete something. If you’ve ever done beadwork, you know that it just doesn’t give you that kind of instant gratification! It’s a very slooow art form — but also very soothing and very meditative. Maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to it right now? Maybe it’s what my heart needs in order to find a little stillness in the midst of all the movement in my life.

My other big creative project lately has been to finish off the website overhaul. Go check it out! I still have a few more tweaks to make, and plenty of content to add … but I’m pleased to finally have the basic framework up there 🙂

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California I’m Coming Home…

“Day of the Deadheads” Calavera Mask

Hopping on a plane tomorrow to go visit one of my oldest friends down in southern California. Kim and her daughter are crafty too — Kim makes beaded jewelry and really cool wine bottle decor, and Alli does a little bit of everything (poly clay, gourds, henna, soap making) — so we’re going to share a booth at one of the local festivalson Mother’s Day weekend. The show is called “Dead on the Mountain” and it’s a great big hippie fest with tons of Grateful Dead cover/inspired bands.

I’ve been beading a lot the past week or two, which is a nice change of pace since I’ve been so focused on leatherwork for the last several months. So I’ll have plenty of beaded jewelry for this event, as well as a good selection of leather barrettes, fascinators and hair slides. Not sure how well the masks will do, but I’m bringing a bunch for good measure. Hopefully, we’ll do well there as I’d love to have a reason to visit more often. I miss the sunshine, the redwoods, the ocean and mostly, my peeps. I’m very excited for a chance to see them!

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Please help the 9/11 Bead Quilt Project!

Photo by Julia Pretl

Hey folks, I need your help! The 9/11 Bead Quilt Project is my artistic baby. It is an amazingly touching and beautiful work of collaborative art from around the world. Don’t just take my word for it, please take 5 minutes out of your day and go visit the gallery pages via the link above…

These quilts have been accepted into the permanent collection of the National September 11th Museum and Memorial, which is being built on the World Trade Center site in Manhattan. Here’s the catch — the completed project is comprised of nearly 300 lbs of glass beads … so shipping ain’t cheap. Fed Ex (or UPS) will charge about $500 for ground service, and it looks like we may have resources for about half of that already.

photo by Julia Pretl

We need to raise another $250 by the end of the year, to get this project shipped to its final home at the museum. Over the years, we have done some crazy fundraisers — and yes, even begged from the Bead Community — to get the quilts what they needed.  Now that it is nearly a decade after the attacks, and there are so many other cool beady projects going on, fundraising is a lot harder. People seem to have lost interest, and also, there are a lot of other (worthy) groups out there vying for the same donations.

Frankly, I just don’t have the ability to devote the insane amounts of time that I used to, and just this once, I’d like to retain a little dignity along the way (yes, I realize I may have blown that by writing this post 😉 .  I need some creative ideas for how to make this happen WITHOUT burning the candle at both ends, begging like an idiot, or getting frustrated and dipping into my own pocket as I have in the past.

Photo by Julia Pretl

We have considered a Facebook fundraising campaign, in hopes that word will travel quickly … but I’m hesitant to create a “fan page” for something that will ideally be out of our hands within a few months. We have also considered doing Ebay auctions for the last 9 books (limited edition — we will not be printing more). Unfortunately, the last time I did an Ebay fundraiser the results were kinda sad … so I have some hesitancy on that one too. Plus, I worry that we Americans are so inundated with consumer marketing this time of year, that people will just feel overwhelmed or be unresponsive. Still, in the face of all of these obstacles, there has to be a solution. If you have ideas or suggestions for a simple and creative way to raise the needed funds to get these quilts shipped to their proper home, please let me know!

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A light at the end of the tunnel

Gypsy Fortune Teller Pin by Mary Tafoya

Now that my mask making mayhem has quieted down a bit, I’ve been able to turn my attention back to completing the vintage bead & cameo site. Building this site has been a labor of love on so many levels. First and foremost, I really hate coding. I’m not a dumb girl by any stretch of the imagination, but HTML, CSS, java and the like just make my eyes glaze over. Add to that a litany of computer woes that has been almost laughable — at least, if you have a very dark sense of humor. And let’s not forget the sheer minutiae of researching, photographing, editing and describing  thousands upon thousands of itsy bitsy beads; plus the agony of having all of that data lost in a computer crash shortly before I was ready to launch. I’ll stop before this rant reaches the point of no return, and simply say that it’s been a long road. A very long, dark road…

Beaded Vessel by Julia S. Pretl

The past three weeks have found me alternately re-counting every bead, cabochon and rhinestone that I carry — or holed up at the keyboard, with my eyes glazed over and a litany of expletives frothing from my lips. During this time I have avoided friends and family, not only because I can’t afford to get distracted, but because I’m just not fit for human consumption when I do this type of work. I expected today to be more of the same, but guess what? I had a paradigm shift! As I worked on the site I was reminded (yet again) of how grateful I am to my talented, beautiful and inspiring friend Julia Pretl, who designed my adorable new bead site. Yes, I am gushing and no, it is not over the top. As painful as this process has been, my agony would have been tenfold if it weren’t for her help. So a million thank you’s, Miz Julia. I appreciate you more than I can say.

Vintage Style Filigree Bracelet from A Mon Seul Desir

Also, I was able to complete the preliminary work of loading and coding all of the product, and move on to something surprisingly fun: building the customer gallery! The images scattered throughout this post reflect the work of a few of my fabulous clients and beady friends (simply click on the captions to visit their sites). As I looked through these images, I was reminded of the creative and inspiring people that I’m able to connect with in the course of my work. It may sound silly, but beads have brought many beautiful friendships into my life. Somewhere in the midst of my CSS induced psychopathy, I realized how very grateful I am to do what I love for a living … yes, even if it means that sometimes, I have to write code. There’s a light at the end of this tunnel. The site is (knock on wood!) almost ready, and I’m feeling particularly grateful for my amazing friends, talented customers, and good fortune.

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9/11 Memorial Bead Art


 In response to the tragic events of 9/11/01, I became a part of  The Bead Quilt Project, which is an international collaborative art memorial project that was designed to offer hope and healing to all whose lives were changed on that day. When we started out, I could not have imagined how this project would snowball or how it would change my life. In the nine years since, I have learned so much about the healing properties of art and also about the beauty and resilience of the human spirit!

We invited people to express their feelings in 3″ x 3″ beaded squares, and we were stunned to receive nearly 600 beaded squares from around the globe! These tiny works of art were sewn together to create “quilts” that reflect the full spectrum of emotions and responses that rang out around the world.

The quilts spent nearly seven years traveling around the US on exhibit before we were able to find the perfect home for them. They have been accepted into the permanent collection of the National September 11th Museum and Memorial at the World Trade Center Site. We are in the final phase now, just trying to raise the funds to transport them to their final home in NY. I invite you to visit the 9/11 Bead Quilt galleries today, to enjoy the beautiful sentiments contained in this truly special work of art.

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Heading into the Last week of Beading For A Cure Auctions!

Are you familiar with Beading for a Cure? It is – in my opinion- one of the coolest bead charities out there, and so very worthy of your support.  Each year, I am amazed by the innovative beadwork that these artists create, and also by the love and commitment that the board members devote to making this happen. A fun aspect of this annual fundraiser is that you are able contribute to a very worthy cause AND potentially win a beautiful piece of bead art for doing so. Win-win, right?

If you’d like more info about this organization and its mission, you can click the link above, or scroll down for a description that I borrowed from their “About Us” page. If you trust me that this is an awesome organization that needs your support and you want to check out the super cool bead art RIGHT NOW, you should click here for a link to their current auctions. Please keep in mind that the current auctions end on May 2nd, and the final round of auctions for this year’s challenge will end on May 7th, 2010.

More about Beading for a Cure:

Layne’s Legacy is an annual beading challenge dedicated to raising money for the National Colorectal Cancer Research Association in honor of our friend Layne Shilling, who lost her battle with colorectal cancer in November 2002. The premise of the challenge is simple: participants purchase a kit which contains a variety of beads. Each kit is identical. At least one of each bead type must be used in the finished project and the beader can only add one other type of bead to the project (but as many non-bead items as they wish). The completed works are as varied as the beaders who created them. In the past we have had jewelry, sculptural work, and decorative items.
When the projects are all finished, they are auctioned off on eBay and all of the proceeds (minus operating costs) go to the NCCRA, donated in Layne’s name. This is our way of honoring the memory of a wonderful beader and good friend. Even those who never had the chance to meet Layne have joined into our cause. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to use your artwork to help find a cure for something as insidious and devastating as cancer.
Our goal with Layne’s Legacy is three-fold. First, we want to keep Layne’s memory and spirit alive in all of us. Second, we want to raise awareness about colorectal cancer and the need to fund research to find a cure for it. Third, we want to raise awareness of beadwork as a serious artform, and beaders as artists with skill and heart. As well, we all want to have fun with this! While we’re doing this for a serious reason, we all love to bead, and it’s a great challenge working with beads that someone else has picked out. It’s very rewarding to see the various projects take shape. Usually, no two projects are anywhere near alike even though we all have the same beads!


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Blasts from the past…

Over the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of reconnecting with a group of old deadhead  friends that I used to be very close to. This community was colorful and eclectic, and I learned so much from them. Being a bunch of hippies they naturally loved beads, so I also learned a lot about beading. In fact, I would say that some of the best beadwork I’ve ever seen came out of the the deadhead parking lot scene.

My fascination with cabochon beading – and also my love for antique microbeads – probably began during my deadhead years. I’d been doing beadwork, and even collecting beads before I got into the Grateful Dead, but those years really fueled my interest. I was exposed to the work of talented bead artists like Nome May, and of course, selling my work was a great way to support my gypsy lifestyle.

A few of my friends still have some of the pieces that I used to sell to fund my travels. I was delighted when they shared pictures of these older pieces with me.  This one belongs to my beautiful friend Janna, who grew up to be an inspiring yoga teacher. It was made in 1989, and it features a large chrysacolla cabochon with a small (I think) raw emerald cab below it. The blue-green stones are tourmaline, and the quartz crystal at the bottom used to be a much longer, crossed/double terminated point, but it broke at some point over the last 20 years.

This barrette belongs to another amazing old friend, Hollie Rose – Java Goddess and owner of Klekolo Coffee in Middletown, CT. It was made in 1988, and it features 3 teensy opal cabs and 1 aquamarine cab set with size 18/o vintage micro seed beads. The funny thing is – I remember exactly where I was and who I was with when I made this (In fact, I still have some of the beads from this dye lot!)

Seeing these pictures reminded me of just how long I’ve been creating beadwork. It’s interesting to me that even though I’ve learned many different techniques over the years, I am still drawn to the same types of materials, such as cabochons and vintage beads. This picture shows me doing beadwork when I was about 15. Back then, I might not have guessed that my love for beadwork would last a lifetime, or play such an important role in my life.


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Bead Embroidered Holiday Card


I forgot to post this earlier … It’s the image that I used for my Christmas – Solstice – Hanukkah – Kwanza- holiday cards last year. They weren’t mailed till New Year’s Eve (I blame the flu bug that had a death grip on me for most of Dec.) but I know that the recipients felt the love and intent behind them, so I’m okay with that.

At first, I was less than thrilled with my dove (I think she looks a little more like a hummingbird 😉 but now I like her in spite – and because – of her imperfections.  I may even make this an annual tradition .

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Talent in Turquoise!


I’m writing on the fly here … but I wanted to mention two things:

Thing one: the Etsy rain treasury that I posted about yesterday? It made the front page! Maybe it’s a little silly, but I was excited/happy about it 🙂

Thing two: I found out that my beadwork was featured in another treasury today. This treasury features a gorgeous collection of seedbead work and polyclay in turquoise hues.

Thank you, Dreambeadweaver for including my barrette in this beautiful collection! 🙂