Make a five-petaled flower

Make a five-petaled flower

five-petaled flower earrings

Make a pair of five-petaled flower earrings!

Wire together five top-drilled beads to make a graceful five-petaled flower.

  • Skills needed: use of round-tipped and chain-nose pliers, and wire cutters
  • Tools: round-tipped pliers; flush cutters; chain-nose pliers
  • Materials (for pair of earrings)
  1.  two 20″ lengths of 26 gauge art wire
  2.  pair of earwires to match wire color (can be sterling silver, 14K gold-filled, or niobium, whatever matches best.
  3. eight matching 4 or 6mm pearls or round beads
  4.  ten matching beads, top-drilled side to side (briolette style).
    Top-drilled beads good as petals

    Use any top-drilled bead as a petal

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Treason of clerks

Treason of clerks

Czech opaline glass bead stack

More massive than these, even.

In each year’s September ritual, standing in line at the supermarket, five years ago, I hoisted a copy of the big Vogue Fashion Week issue.

The customer in line in front of me wore a ethereal lilac cotton tiered skirt paired with a top in a hard blue, black and white geometric pattern.

The first pages I flipped to were a four-page layout promoting the concept of football motifs as fashion assets. Just, no.  Expensively produced ad urging women to spend top dollar on outfits with big numbers and sullen team colors. Maybe it was seeing the ad just after that brutal blouse/ floaty skirt combination, whose colors weren’t on speaking terms. I went into a spiral of eye grief. As an art jewelry merchant, I was dismayed to see that most of the models in the editorial section of the magazine wore no necklaces, not even ugly ones, — not even with V-neck or deep decolletage necklines that could have used the visual break.

One spread showed an annoyed-looking young woman with duellist’s eyes, posing in a series of expensive-looking locations, wearing graceless clothing and large shoes, her hair raked back into an upright ponytail. Rather than being glorified, her youth and beauty were put into the service of an inexplicable vision of ugliness.

I have weathered sparse fashion eras before–which I define as a dearth of good-looking, easily available art jewelry and clothing– but I really thought in 2014 we had hit rock bottom. Five years past my eye grief moment, experience shows me that curiosity about why things happen make things endurable.

The world moves on. It is possible that for various lifestyle, political, and economic reasons, fashionable women have no wish to wear jewelry which suggests sumptuousness, art, art history, or the richness and colors of nature. The Belle Epoque rested on a solid financial cushion produced by a backdrop of colonial oppression and colonialism. The 1950’s made even thin women wear girdles, and all women wear high heeled shoes so it wasn’t an unmitigated paradise of costume jewelry.

Also, it’s impossible to want what you don’t see. The internet places a visual treasury in our hands, but if you don’t know what to ask for, names such as Miriam Haskell (fl. 1930’s -1960’s) or Stephen Dweck (ca. 1990) mean nothing.

Yes I’m writing this essay on a screen. The visual and physical world, human presence, is ignored almost to an anchoritic degree. If something beautiful is not on a screen,  it is deemed worthless, whether it be sunlight on healthy living beings, or an opaline glass bead, or a flower, or a bead shaped like a flower,  or so it seems in my more paranoid moments.

The unrivalled ability of search engines to answer questions and find beauty is useless without having any idea what to ask for. Many students these days are denied standard-issue education in the visual arts, for some reason I cannot fathom, so how can they ask for names and images they never heard of?

A desert is forming: self-reinforcing visual sterility, ignorance of ignorance.

Jittery, patterned fabrics in harsh colors unkind to all complexions suggest the formation of an esthetic based on digital imagery rather than the older standard of beauty based on nature as inspiration. The women’s football clothing ad may have been a fluke but it suggests an ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’ resignation. Or maybe the NFL was trying to shore up business that year, spent big bucks on advertising, who cares how anything looks?

When colors are quantified into approved yearly color groups (which to my eyes always look like the same set of colors under different names, but it could just be my screen) set by a company I used to know as a color ink matching service for offset printing, a vacancy at the top is suggested.

There is an old term for the acts of literate thinkers who failed to provide help to their illiterate brethren when it was in their power: trahison des clercs, or treason of clerks. (‘Clerk’ was the going term for the literate in general, when they were in the minority.) I believe that humans have a thirst for beauty and personal presence during their brief lives which is being denied for various spurious reasons such as ‘edginess’ by designers who have the potential to do better.

I would love to be proved wrong, or to prove myself wrong.

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Make ‘Clotheshanger’ Loops for Side-to-Side Drilled Beads

Use your leaf, dagger and other side-to-side drilled beads to create attractive dangles.

If you create a loop with angular straight sides, you can add a wide variety of side-drilled beads to your jewelry designs. I made this pair of earrings using 26 gauge wire. Grab a pair of straight pliers and try this wirework technique to add to your jewelry making skills.

Tools needed:

You’ll need a pair of needle-nose (straight) pliers and a second pair of any kind of pliers as backup.

Here’s how the clotheshanger loops and dangles look, up close.

The following picture is a step-by step graphic showing the bends you need to make on the wire with straight pliers. For better visibility I’ve used heavier wire, 20 gauge in this photograph. When I made the example earrings, I used 26 gauge gold art wire and 7 x 12mm leaf beads, not the 20 gauge dark wire and wide petals you see in the step-by-step graphic.

Make three angular bends, then wrap.

Cut a piece of wire about 5 inches long. 1. With the straight pliers, bend the bottom two inches to a 45 degree angle. 2. At about three-eighths or a quarter inch after the first bend, bend again. Thread a side-drilled bead on. 3. The third bend should be done at a length so that a flat triangle with equal sides is formed. 4. Between the jaws of the straight pliers, keep a firm hold on the spot where the wire crosses the top of the triangle. While keeping a stable hold and not allowing anything to move, wrap the end of the wire two or three times around the upright wire and trim. If the triangle clotheshanger shape is wonky, straighten and sharpen the corners with the straight pliers.

Your clotheshanger dangle is done! Now you can add beads to make the main body of your earring, finishing the link using the conventional wrapped loop technique. Add more links as desired, and add earwires.

14 K gold filled earwires, top links, main links and side-to-side drilled bead dangles.

Announcing the Czech bead final four face-off!

group shot of beads

Welcome to the jungle, baby.

Mid-Summer for me is the perfect time for idle Internet contests and quizzes of the “Which apex predator am I the most like?” variety. Here’s my bid for your summertime clicks, with a cause we can all support: four major types of Czech glass beads vying for dominance, paired as follows: Continue reading

Wire up a pendant with a Czech button

Wire up a pendant with a Czech button

Front view of pendant

Front view of pendant

Here is a way to use Czech buttons and wire to make a pendant. You will need 18 gauge wire for the frame and 26 gauge wire to secure the button to the frame. In this example I use art wire, although you may choose to use sterling silver, 14K gold-filled, or copper wire.  Art wire (my choice) is copper wire, sometimes silver-plated depending on the color, and always coated with a nylon-based enamel to keep it from tarnishing. It is sturdy in the larger gauges, and soft enough to bend with your hands. Continue reading

Double spiral links

These earrings are made with silver art wire, sterling headpins/earwires and pearls.

These earrings are made with silver art wire, sterling headpins/earwires and pearls.

I have been making spirals for years, but always wanted to make one with two loops, one on the top and one on the bottom. Make two spirals and lash them together to create a link with two loops, following these easy step-by-step instructions. Continue reading