Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Red Touches Yellow, You're a Dead Fellow"

These bracelets are really, really easy to make. Using abut ten inches of some thin wire from the hardware store I made a loop with two or three wraps at one, threaded on some size six seed beads, tried the bracelet on for size, and, when the size was correct, looped the free end through the first loop, pulled everything tight and then wrapped the free end around three or four times.

This would be an easy project for kids although the adult supervising should probably do the wire cutting and maybe the wire wrapping.

I'm not too into "glitz" so my examples are somewhat simple. I think they are a bit African in feel. Imagine wearing a bunch of these! You could even color coordinate with your wardrobe.

I recommend "Shipwreck Beads" in Lacey, Washington as a great source for seed beads and "glitz".

Sunday, October 25, 2009

La Calavera Catrina

This pin is based on the Jose Guadalupe Posada etching "La Calavera Catrina", a political cartoon published in Mexico in 1913.

I made it out of polymer clay pressed into a sugar skull mold I bought at "Milagros", a wonderful import store in the Pike Place Market in Seattle. To make the pin a little lighter it is stuffed with crumpled aluminum foil. I used "Zap-a-Gap" to glue a pin on the back and painted the flowers, straw hat and the facial features with acrylics. It is especially important to get the face just so. Even the eyes of a skeleton need to look right!

The really fun part is painting the whole thing with translucent glitter paint and then sprinkling on the glitter "sugar". I use "Diamond Dust" brand as it gives a nice crunchy sugary look.

"La Catrina" is fun to wear and especially so during Day of the Dead festivities. She's sure to get compliments - so fashionable in her pretty hat.

$25 c2009

Saturday, October 17, 2009

All That Glitters is Not Gold

I stayed up too late the other night making more bracelets.

These turned out rather nicely but I'm going to change the way I make the final wraps on bracelets like the one on the right. I'm going to hammer the ends flat, smooth the edges, wrap and crimp. The way I do it now is too prickly and the ends catch on clothes, et cetera.

The bracelet on the left has a cicada as a focal bead. The bug is about 1.25 inches long and even the underside is detailed. I've had two of these beads for a long time and forget where I bought them. That's too bad as my friend Elizabeth asked for three bracelets just like it. I'm going to see if I can make a facsimile from my magic paper and paint them to look like "gold".

Elizabeth gets this one for her jewelry collection.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


There was a real "Amala", a "Great Mother". Her name was Diki Tsering and she was the mother of HH The 14th Dalai Lama.

This is a photograph of her taken by Heinrich Harrer, the author of the book "Seven Years in Tibet". Her daughter, Jetsun Pema, portrayed her in the film.

The Dalai Lama has said that she was a very kind and considerate person and, even with all the troubles she experienced herself, she was always ready to help others. He has also stressed that mothers are extremely important and are sometimes under valued given their vital roll in bringing up the world.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Charlotte by the back door

This big momma spider has a nest of eggs above our back door.

It's fun to watch her. She's out in the evening waiting for bugs and during the day she tucks herself up above the backdoor light. I'd guess, with her legs stretched flat out, she's bigger than a quarter but a bit smaller than a half dollar.

We've taken to ducking as we go out the door so as to not disturb her web. What an awful thing to have those monster people ruin her nightly work of art.

Charlotte is a beautiful creature. Don't you agree??

10/18/2009 It seems that Charlotte is a European cross spider (Araneus diadematus). You can see the cross shape on the back of her abdomen. We watched her spin a web today. Quite fun - she is good! The bad thing is that she anchored it on the knocker on the back door - luckily, spider web is stretchy and we can get the door open without breaking the web!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I've also been making bracelets. These three examples are made with agates from Nepal, evil eye beads I bought on-line from "Happy Mango", and brass beads from west Africa.

The beads all have larger holes through which I thread at least two strands of wire I purchased at the hardware store and formed into the round wrist shape. The tail of the wire strand is wrapped around and around the circular strands and then trimmed and crimped tightly.

I like these bracelets because they are somewhat flexible and shape themselves to your wrist after time. I made a bracelet of three agates with a brass bead on each end for my friend Xola Malik, a rapper of considerable fame in the Pacific Northwest, in return for some music he sent to me. Please Google Xola Malik for an example of his works.

Agate bracelet $40, evil eyes private collection, West African brass beads $28 c.20009

Shrine of the Holy Mom

I picked up this plaster statue of the Holy Mom for a buck at a garage sale and am planning to make a shrine for her out of some Cuban cigar boxes I found recently at the local Salvation Army.

A shrine for Ganesh

A friend at work asked me what kinds of things I like to make. I mentioned jewelry, of course, but also told her that I make shrines.

This one is in honor of the Hindu god Ganesh, the remover of obstacles (appropriate for an elephant headed god). I found the picture on -line, copied it onto card stock and mounted it into a box I bought at the craft store. There is a little shelf on which to place offerings.

It measures almost 10" high by 7" wide by 3" deep at the shelf.

$35 c. 2009

Sunday, October 11, 2009


I have been to many bead shops in the Pacific Northwest and I'm always on the lookout for something new and different.

I can highly recommend "Alexander's Bead Bazaar" in the Roosevelt District in Seattle, "Cargo" in the Pearl District in Portland, "The Bead Factory", too close to my home, and "Shipwreck Beads" at Exit 111 on Interstate 5 in Lacey Washington.

I have also shopped on-line at "Happy Mango Beads" and have visited the "Hands of the Hills", located in Mercer Island, Washington, at several beads shows.

You may want to check out these places. They all very inspiring! Couldn't I just give up working for the school district and "play" full time??

Spindle Whorl Beads

Fibers can be spun in many ways - with a wheel, by hand or with a drop spindle. A drop spindle needs to be weighted so it will keep spinning as the spinster draws out the fibers. The weights are called whorls. The whorls used in Africa are often made of clay that has been incised, dried in the sun, and accented with whitewash to bring out the design.

My spindle whorl necklace is made of polymer clay. The dark whorls are made of a blend of black, gray, and translucent FIMO decorated by impressing designs made with straws, gouges, screwdrivers, et cetera. They are then cured, sanded, highlighted with paints, sanded again and polished, polished, and polished some more. The outcome is a very satisfactory heavy bead.

All the beads in this example are made from polymer clay. The small tan beads are made using a method I perfected in which a "log" of clay is pierced with a long wire and rolled carefully so the clay lengthens along the wire and is then cut into small rings (a "how-to" will be forthcoming). The slightly larger discs are just balls of polymer clay squashed flat and pierced with a bamboo skewer. The tan beads and the black discs are not polished in this example.

The beads and spacers are strung on cotton cord. Matching earrings are available.

$75 - c. 2009

Dyed bone beads

Several months ago I dyed some bone hairpipes I purchased at Shipwreck Beads in Lacey, Washington.

I used a dye meant for protein based fabrics and added some alum to the dye - about a tablespoon of dye and a teaspoon of the alum. I boiled the dye and alum in a cup or two of water (so much for scientific methods!) and added the beads, which I washed with dishwashing liquid beforehand to remove any coatings and oils.

The result was disappointing.

Then, after digging the beads out of storage one day, I had the thought of buffing the beads on my buffing wheel. What a difference that made!! I have two cotton buffing wheels on my machine, one plain and one that I rub with beeswax. I switched from one to the other and ended up with some really nice dyed hairpipes!

See the difference? Plain hairpipes on the top, then the dyed hairpipes lower left and the polished hairpipes on the lower right. I'm happy I didn't throw the beads out before the lightbulb went off! I have another example of some bone beads I dyed, antiqued and polished coming soon.