Monday, August 31, 2015

More Coin Rings...

I managed to squeeze in some studio time and work.  Here are a few coin rings that I made.  They aren't finished just yet.  I need to finish them off by buffing them and cleaning them up, but they are close.  I'm still smitten with the contrast between the weathered bronze and the shiny silver.  It's also nice to be able to "frame" some of my original artwork and translate it into something wearable.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Bead and Craft Bloggers...

The Writing and Art of Andrew Thornton
For August, the Inspired by Reading Book Club read, "The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern.  See what the participants were inspired to create with this fantastical book in mind!

Christian Art Greeting Cards
Cherie introduces some new greeting cards she's made with her artwork.

How to Sew a Pillow
This easy pillow tutorial uses scrap fabric (from an old receiving blanket) to make a perfect pillow for a little kid's rest time.

Video Book Review
The Crafty Princess takes a look at a new book called, "Super Cute Crochet for Little Feet".

Lost Earring Cleverly Replaced
Eileen lost one of the earrings the very first time she wore this pretty set.  Don't you just hate when that happens?

Snap Out of It, Jean!  There's Beading to Be Done!
Jean reviews the spectacular new book, "Fine Art Wire Weaving" by Sarah Thompson.  What a great design book!

Beading Arts
Cyndi has rounded up some of her favorite tutorials from the blogosphere this summer and most are pretty easy and quick to make!

Connie Gee's Designs
Connie has added a new free pattern to her site.  It is the first in a series of vase-themed patterns inspired by vintage sampler motifs.

Art Bead Scene
Check out Mary's review of the new book, "Handcrafted Metal Findings".  It looks awesome!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Glass Experiments...

After the ring I made for book club, I've really been interested in making some of my own cabochons to set.  I've been playing around with glass fusing and have been having fun mixing colors and testing out the best ways to pack the glass for the effects I want to achieve.

The pictures aren't super.  I snapped them on the fly.  This is an experiment using enamel powders.  It gives a sort of hazy, stained look.  The larger pieces give a more graphic, speckled look.

This experiment came from playing with metal.  I used copper shavings to tint the glass.  It made the glass turn a smoky greenish gray color.  It'll be interesting to see if this is stable or not.  I hope so.  I'd like to use some of these in rings and don't want them to implode if they get smacked.  I'd also like to see this tumbled.

I want to avoid anything that is already commercially available.  I know that you can by glass stones by the bagful for cheap, so it's important for me to make these as different as possible.  I want these to have a little magic to them and I think I'm on the right track!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Inspired by Reading August Blog Hop...

For August, we read, "The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern.  The novel is about a duel between two wizards, played out through opponents staged in a fantastical traveling circus.  At the heart of the book is a forbidden romance.  All of the participants agreed that it was one of their favorite books that we've read in the book club!  For our purposes, it was loaded down with all kinds of fun imagery to pull from.

We had a really fun turn out for the in-person meet-up!  Everyone got dressed up in black and white, with pops of red!  (That's the color scheme of the Night Circus in the book.)  "Rêveurs" or "dreamers" who attend the circus dress up in black and white and wear red scarves to tell who is who.
Some of the participants dressed up more than others!  Here's Alison dressed up like Widget (a red-headed boy who can see the past and does an act with cats) and Laurel dressed up like Celia, who is one of the proxy opponents (and daughter of Prospero the Enchanter) who has natural gifts that are nurtured through thought and feeling.  (Marco, her advisory who represents Mr. A.H., specializes in book learning and casting illusions within the intended target's mind.)

We had quite the spread!  Just to name a few things... Alison brought cinnamon churros and caramel popcorn.  (To decorate, she laid out printouts of the tarot cards from the book.)  Laurel had a fancy assortment of baked goods and Christmas crackers.  I picked up an tray of pastries from Warrior King Pastries, including this dark chocolate torte.  I also made a pitcher of Pimms Cup, since it's a very English summertime beverage and this is the last book club of the summer.  Can you believe it's almost fall!?!  

Here's a picture of the in-person meet-up.  We all wore our paper crowns from the crackers.  It's always a lot of fun getting together.  Although discussion of the book is usually minimal, we always have a good time talking and making things and taking a break from our every day.  I look forward to the meet-ups every month!

Without further ado... here's the reveal:

Terri made this bracelet.  Here's what she had to say about it:  "The Ice Garden is such an iconic image in the book.  Everything in that tent is made of crystalline ice.  I chose a limited palette, playing off the color scheme of the circus.  The lampwork glass beads were made by Catherine Steele and the pearls were harvested from a bracelet I picked up at Ann Taylor.  The floral toggle goes perfectly with the glass beads."

Dawn made this matching set.  Here's what she had to say about it: "I loved the colors from the circus!  So I made a matching necklace, bracelet and pair of earrings.  This was my first time wire-wrapping!"

Dawn also made this matching set.  Here's what she had to say about it:  "While I was reading the book, I noticed the illustrations of constellations.  It moved me to make this set.  I used clear illusion cord to make it look like the crystals are floating in a constellation pattern.  The earrings also dangle, looking like stars in the sky!"

Amy made this piece.  Here's what she had to say about it:  "The gray fuzzy beads remind me of the gray suit that Mr. A.H. wears.  I added them with black beads, to represent the raven that Celia's dress turns into.  I also strung little metal spacers.  Those signify the train that the circus travels on."

Laurel made this piece.  Here's what she had to say about it.  "In the book, Madame Padva (the costume designer of the circus) has become quite wealthy from her time in the ballet and has a very fashionable and expensive strand of rubies.  They describe the vibrant color of the rubies as almost blood-like and that it looks as though her throat has been slit.  I used these crystal to create a choker.  I added the beaded tassel for dramatic effect and really look like a spurt of blood!"

I've been on a ring kick lately and it just so happens that there were rings in the book!  The rings are given to the opponents to symbolize their covenant to the challenge.  So, I was really inspired to make this ring.  The stone is actually glass that I fused!  I mixed black and white frit to create the "half and half" look that is predominant in the circus.  Then I bezel set the cabochon on a sterling silver ring.  I used a decorative band that I thought had a Victorian vibe.  I could totally see this existing in The Night Circus universe!"

But wait... that's not it!  Check out what these participants made with "The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern in mind:

"Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" by Robin Sloan is up next for September!  CLICK HERE to see the full list of books for the year.  The in-person meet-up is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, September 23rd.  The blog hop is scheduled for the following day.  If you're interested in keeping up with what we're doing, CLICK HERE to visit our Facebook page.  It's a closed group, so you'll have to request to join.  Hope you'll play along!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

New Finishes on Porcelain Pendants...

A few months ago, I created a series called, "Cosmic Relics".  It furthered my experimentation with surface treatments on porcelain.  I was most interested in adding metallics and iridescent finishes.

To make them is quite the process.  First, I carve all the molds in polymer clay.  Once the molds have cured, I press out pieces in porcelain.  While they're still in the greenware stage, I hand-tool them, adding larger holes and removing any burrs.  Once they've dried out, I fire them.

Then comes the part where I play.  I hand-glaze them in matte velour glazes and fire them again.  Once they've been fired, I tumble them to bring out the detail and enhance the silky-satin feel.  The pieces are then stained with permanent inks, detailed with opalescent paints and pigments, and touched up with colored wax and Gilder's Paste.  I try to achieve iridescent effects found on Ancient Roman glass and rake-fired ceramics.

These are my latest results.  Sadly, the pictures don't really do them justice.  I wish there were a way to capture all the shifting colors and shimmering effects of the new finishes and colorplays.

I'm selling them for $8 each, plus shipping.  Contact me via email ( or leave a comment if you're interested.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Bead and Craft Bloggers...

Doll Experiment Wrap Up
Malibu Barbie is back to give a wrap up of the doll crafting experimentation – good and bad!

Whiten Yellowed Plastic
Do you know how easy it is to whiten plastic yellowed by age?  Eileen demonstrates on her Ott task lamp and Braun juicer with awesome results!  Everything old is new again!

DIY Chalkboard Sign
Getting ready for back to school?  This easy chalkboard sign is made out of a canvas and is a great prop for first day of school photoshoots.

Beading Arts
Cyndi has posted a new tutorial for an older piece she just rediscovered, "Portal to Dreams".

Treasure Hunt
Connie's added a new pattern to her Etsy shop called, "Treasure Hunt"!  It would be great for an ornament or card.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

My Dilemma...

I began this post thinking of blog post titles.  At first I thought, "The Artist's Dilemma"?  Or maybe, "The Introvert's Dilemma"?  I even considered, "Libra Dilemmas".  But really, without over generalizing, it should be, "My Dilemma".

Recently I've become aware of this tugging sensation.  At first it was subtle and seemingly unnoticeable.  It was a creeping, quiet thing that would gently pop up and then disappear just as quickly.  Lately though, I've noticed an increase in this feeling and not from one direction, but several.

This isn't a wholly new sensation for me.  It revisits me every so often, as it has a chance to build up, like steam gathering in a tea kettle.  The source comes from an internal conflict.  Part of me craves the simple act of making things, to be wild in my creative pursuits and just make stuff.  This part of me doesn't want to worry about whether or not I can sell it or if it'l be good for business or if it will be profitable.  I just want to create.  The thing about this is that much of my process comes from a place of solitude and self-reflection.  It comes from ritual and finding pattern.  It's like runners who find their stride.  It's like getting lost in the vastness of counting stars or tracing the outlines of clouds in the sky.

The conflict arises from "everything else".  To be a creative professional means that you have to build relationships.  The relationships are ties with community and other people.  Those ties are strengthened by obligation, responsibility, and duty.  As a person who creates things, relationships develop from being able to find a way to sustain oneself by creating things in order to create more things.  And while that's not a bad thing, for the wild one who craves running through the fields of one's mind, the little things like paying bills, making dinner, and being pleasant to others in social situations, can seem monumental.  It's like a sink full of dishes.  Sometimes, when you're in the zone, washing dishes seems easy and the next thing you know you're done.  It can even seem a little fun and cathartic.  But then there are days when the sun is shining temptingly and the outdoors are calling your name or you're in the middle of a good book and the protagonist is just about to discover something incredible... but if you want to make dinner, you've got to clean that pot... but that pot is under some plates and that plate is under some forks and you really could do almost anything else... but you agonize over how much you don't want to do it and really if you just buckled down and did it, it'd be over and done with in short order.

I wish there was a simple solution to figuring out how to resolve the internal conflict, but there really isn't just one way.  Sometimes it includes organizing and putting in place a new system.  Sometimes it's some solid alone time and the exploration of nature and creative pursuits.  Sometimes relief can be found by working with a new material or by displacing oneself with travel.  In the past, I've found answers in taking a break from everything or inundating myself with inspiration that feeds my imagination.  Sometimes relief can be derived from spending quality time with kindred spirits or trying something completely new and different.  Writing about it can sometimes help.  Simply acknowledging it can sometimes be enough.  Ultimately it comes from finding and restoring a sense of balance.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Earring Break...

I've been obsessed with making rings lately... but I took a break to make this pair of earrings.  I made hammered rings, soldered them closed, and added the bezel-set amber cabochons.  I then made balled headpins and made earwires.  I think they've got a really modern, minimalistic vibe.  I think they're fun and it's nice to break up the routine... even if I am enjoying myself thoroughly making mountains of rings!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Bead and Craft Bloggers...

Diamond Two is Posted
Connie has posted the second section of her free SAL.  There's still plenty of time to join in on all the fun!  She also added a new free pattern this week.  Be sure to check that out as well!

Art Bead Scene
Check out this sweet summer necklace tutorial from Mary!

The Writing and Art of Andrew Thornton
Dreaming Tree is the latest challenge hosted by Andrew.  She what the participants made from the fluorite-inspired design kit!

Amigurumi Tip #2
This video tip helps you pick out the perfect amigurumi pattern for success.

Good Morning Starshine Card Designed in Silhouette Studio
Learn how to make and design one-of-a-kind greeting cards in Silhouette Studio.

Beading Arts
Just when you think there are no interesting materials left to try out in your jewelry making...

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Brave Angel 2 Special Challenge SOLD OUT...

On the heels of selling out the first run of Brave Angel Special Challenge kits, we created another batch!  Brave Angel 2 Special Challenge Design Kits have sold out as well! Many thanks to everyone who purchased a kit!  They sold out SO FAST!  We appreciate your participation and applaud each of you for being willing to shine the light on this disease and bring awareness to breast cancer prevention, research, and treatment.  Please join us on October 29th to see the reveal of this very special challenge!  Thanks again!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Brave Angel 2 Special Challenge...

Once we sold out of the Brave Angel Special Challenge kits, we received several requests to post more kits.  Because this cause means so much to us, we decided to do it!  And thusly, we created Brave Angel 2.

As you can tell, it has pretty much the same components as the first run, but we've substituted a few of the items that we were out of.  The second run also pushes the original palette, including more varieties of pink... including some light fuchsias and peaches.

CLICK HERE to find out more about the kit and to grab one if you missed it the first time!  Once we sell out (again), that's it!

Brave Angel Special Challenge SOLD OUT...

This has to be a record!  We sold out of the Brave Angel Special Challenge kits in record time!  Many thanks to everyone who purchased a kit and are planning to participate!  We appreciate your support and willingness to share breast cancer awareness.  Mark your calendars!  The reveal date for the Brave Angel Special Challenge is scheduled for Thursday, October 29th.

Brave Angel Special Challenge...

I'm by no stretch of the imagination famous.  But I do believe in using whatever platform one has to promote causes that are important to them.  As a (skin) cancer survivor and someone who has lost friends and colleagues to breast cancer, I believe in the importance of raising awareness for breast cancer prevention and supporting innovations in treatment and advances in research.

This lead me to create a Special Challenge.  I've named this challenge, Brave Angel.  If you're not familiar with the challenges, they are a fun way to push yourself creatively and create from an assortment of pre-selected components.  This challenge is designed to help raise awareness for breast cancer prevention and participants will have the option of auctioning off their creations to donate to a charity of their choice.  The creations that I make will be auctioned off and proceeds will go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

To participate, you must purchase a Design Kit.  This kit features a vibrant selection of premium Czech glass (both old and vintage), vintage acrylic, raspberry quartz, waxed cotton, Javanese glass, vintage seed beads, recycled sari silk ribbon, dyed jade and a Luxury Bead Blend.

The Luxury Bead Blend consists of Japanese Miyuki seed beads, Toho seed beads, Japanese Matsuno seed beads, vintage Czech seed beads, freshwater pearls, glass pearls, Czech glass (both old and new), rose quartz, wood, stone, vintage sequins, German glass, vintage plastic, Swarovski crystals, vintage Japanese glass, Javanese glass, and vintage lucite.

But that's not it! Each kit includes a special, handmade Mystery Component! The component is a secret until arrives at your door!

The Mystery Component will publicly be revealed Monday, October 12th, 2015!

The inspiration behind this kit is of course the color pink.  I used the Pantone 2015 Color Reports for spring and fall and pulled Strawberry Ice and Cashmere Rose as a starting point.  I don't work with a lot of pink, so this will be an extra challenge for me!  But it's an important cause and I hope I can raise money for breast cancer research and treatment!

With your kit, using as much or as little of it as you like, create a piece that showcases your creativity, individuality, and artistic expression. Ideally your creation will spotlight the fantastic assortment of beads included in the kit, but the sky is the limit with what you can create. Feel free to use beads from your own stash to supplement the offered selection. Whether you use a little or a lot of the kit, make sure you keep your project a secret until the reveal date!

The reveal date is set for Thursday, October 29th, 2015! 

Post a picture on your blog or send one to me to post on your behalf (if you don't have a blog of your own). The Brave Angel Special Challenge will end in a blog hop, sharing all the lovely things made with your kit with your fellow participants.

There are only 20 Design Kits available (with one set aside for myself)! Once we receive your order, we will process your kit and send it out within seven Allegory Gallery business days. Hurry! Supplies are limited and are on a FIRST COME, FIRST SERVE basis! (Sorry, no exceptions!)

I also wanted to mention that all the Design Kits will be shipped with Priority Mail. This can take anywhere from one business day to fourteen. For international participants, it may take longer! If you know that it takes a long time to reach your destination (from Southwestern Pennsylvania) please place your orders early! I will do my best to get your kits out as early as possible, but unfortunately we can't be held responsible if it arrives late due to the postal service.

All sales of the Design Kits are final and there are no returns or exchanges. Sorry!

With all that being said... we hope you have a great time working with the kit and have a lot of fun! We are super excited to see what you create!

CLICK HERE to get your Design Kit!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Dreaming Tree Challenge Reveal...

I'm so pleased to present the latest challenge reveal!  Today we're unveiling our creations made for the Dreaming Tree Challenge.  Before we get rolling, I wanted to express my gratitude to everyone who purchased a kit!  Thank you!  It's really exciting to see what people make.  These lovely projects encourage us to keep doing what we're doing!

The color palette for this challenge started off being inspired by a few pieces of rainbow fluorite.  It's an airy mix of sea foam green, pale purples, and icy clear.  There's even subtle touches of gold and gray.  It reminded me of the shifting colors of the aurora borealis.  To read more about the inspiration, CLICK HERE.

Each of the kits also included a Mystery Component!  It's a surprise piece made by me.  I forgot to reveal it this past month, so here it is!  It's polymer clay and depicts and tree with star blossoms.  I'm really drawn to this image, of a tree twinkling with starlight.

And without further ado... here's the reveal:

Nancy Noyes-Ward made these pieces.  Here's what she had to say about them:  "I love Andrew's pendant and the luxe bead mix was swoon-worthy!  I worked up a prayer lariat in honor of my sister.  It was a very cathartic piece to make.  I saw the hibiscus beads and knew immediately that I wanted to use points with them to highlight the orange in the bead and the exact color of the hibiscus tree gift from my children.  I am on the road and don't have the ear-wires I would like to use with these, but will add them when I return home.  I have so many more earrings in mind!  Thank you for a great challenge!"

Laurel Ross made these pieces.  Here's what she had to say about them:  "This challenge was sort of threefold for me.  The waxed linen was a mistake.  A BIG one!  Instead of trimming it into the 2 meter lengths that are sold in the store, I trimmed an entire spool into 1 meter pieces.  Whoops!  So I had a lot of linen to play with.  Here's another funny fact... I can't stand the feeling of it on my hands.  So Challenge #1 – Use up the linen.  My first piece was for the Pretty Palettes Challenge for July.  I used 24 strands of linen and the inspiration was the Aurora Borealis.  The star button closure is from Green Girl Studios."

"My other personal challenge (#2) was to get over my distaste for stones in chip form.  Andrew had gotten in these beauties and as a tribute to my aunt, whose mantra was "if you like it, buy it in every color", I bought every strand of fluorite in the shop.  Needless to say, after all the rest ringing and knotting, I only have two full strands of the original twelve left.  My last challenge was to get this done in time!  And I just barely made it.  Once I determine how to finish the ends, I will have a pretty awesome fluorite collection to wear!"

These pieces were made by Cheryl Lee Tucker.  Here's what she had to say about them:  "I made a necklace and earring set using some lavender pearls with the nuggets.  The lavender color is a subtle compliment to the cool green shades of the stones.  I like the smooth sheen of the pearls offset by the earthy, chunky nuggets."

Cheryl Lee Tucker also made these pieces.  Here's what she had to say about them:  "For the wrap bracelet/necklace and matching earrings, I followed that same mixed up texture path.  I had the stones in my collection and used the lovely Dreaming Tree component as a focal.  The nubbly linen cord shows through and around the polished stones.  I used gold findings to highlight and the gold branches of the Mystery Component.  Hope you all like them!"

Dawn Berkebile made these pieces.  Here's what she had to say about them:  "So I chose this for my first challenge because of the color combination.  It reminded me of the quilt squares I made with my mother while she was still alive.  The set is shown with a couple of the squares.  That was my inspiration."

Melissa Wynne made these pieces.  Here's what she had to say about them:  "I loved the colors and the great selection of beads.  It's so soothing to sort them out.  It's easy to get lost in the colors and textures. I used to work almost exclusively with seed beads and delicas, but due to my older eyes, I've gotten away from them.  The glass flower beads I selected for earrings "wanted" me to try to them again and it was nice to find out that I could still work with the tiny beads.  The stones for the necklace were challenging to string, but to my surprise, I was able to work with them too!  The wrap bracelet can be worn as a necklace.  I used a magnetic clasp to make it a snap to put on and take off."

These pieces were made  by Valerie Tilghman.  Here's what she had to say about them:  "I love fluorite!  It's a soft stone but has such an amazing display of color.  Such a wonderful gift from Mother Earth!  Being that it is such a soft stone, using fluorite in a necklace lowers the risk of damage to the stone and allows everyone to see up close how beautiful they are.  I used the lovely artwork made with the loving hands of Andrew as a focal for a bracelet.  Being able to see it on the wrist will always remind us of how strong we are as a tree and all of the twists and turns that life brings are the branches.  Last, but not least, the earrings!  The center beads with the burst of color just screamed earrings!  Paired with the lavender and hematite accents I look forward to wearing my favorite colors."

These pieces were made of Donna Hoblit of VeraDonna Treasures.  Here's what she had to say about them:  "The set on the left are my favorite style of jewelry with a bit of whimsy in the earrings.  The pieces feature lampwork by Jill Symons and Julie Burgard.  The fine pewter Grow Strong tree is from Green Girl Studios.  The set on the right pushed me out of my comfort zone.  I used smaller beads and with the lampwork glass by Julie Burgard and the glass bauble capsule by Green Girl Studios.  I put the smallest of the beads in the capsule."

This ring was made by me!  I've been on a kick making rings and after playing around with the components didn't want to stop!  So I found a way to work them into a ring.

Since I made this ring for the Dreaming Tree challenge, I didn't want to have a plain band.  So I twisted, hammered and soldered wire together and created a band that's supposed to be stylized roots.

You might be wondering how I worked beads from the kit into the ring.  It's simple! I smashed them!  I made a mold of a stone, mixed the pulverized fluorite bits with resin.  Once it was cured, I dyed the resin with alcohol inks to make it look more like a solid piece of fluorite.  Once that was ready, I bezel set it.

But wait... there's more!  Check out what these participants made for the Dreaming Tree Challenge!  Make sure to hop around and comment on all the amazing creations!  Everyone did such a wonderful job!

Up next is the Warrior Stone Challenge!  I hope you'll swing by and see what everyone made for it!  The reveal date is scheduled for Thursday, September 10th.

The next kit goes on SALE TOMORROW!  The new kit is called, Brave Angel.  It's a Special Challenge and is breast cancer awareness-themed.