Sunday, 27 March 2011

Tiara photo

This tiara isn't finished or anything (notice the sloppy wire wrapping). It's an idea that I tried out and then I spent a lot of time thinking of a decent way to photograph it. So here the photos are about how the object is captured, not how the object actually looks.

Just placing it on paper made the tiara seem so flat and it was hard to get down in a good position to shoot it. Ideally I would've used a model -- live or plastic -- but I didn't have one so I hade to try some other ideas.

I tried placing it on a pillow covered with dark red velvet, as seen below. Kind of a classic. The pillow in the middle raise the tiara a bit from the table and the fabric makes the display look more elegant. Also, with tiaras that aren't alice bands (intended to wear with the "legs" behind the ears) it looks a bit like how the tiara will sit on the bride's head. The idea was good, but my camera skills were poor and the pics all came out over exposed.

After that, I turned to the "invisible thread suspension method" -- as used before (more than once) -- and the first photo is the result of that. White beads and white background isn't ideal, but my main objective was to se how the suspension would work. In the pic you can see the "floating" tiara on top and then below that, the tiaras as seen photographed lying flat.

I like how it seems to float freely in the air, giving it a lightweight feel. It was a bit of a hassle propping it up and editing it so the last traces of the illusion cord disappeared, but I think I like the result. Probably nothing I'd do with all tiaras. If fact, it probably wouldn't look good with certain designs. But I think I'll use the method sometimes in the future as well. What do you think of it?


By the way, can you see what the tiara embellishment actually is? That's right: an old illusion ("floating") necklace with cheap plastic pearls. Got it somewhere for free ages ago. I've also made another tiara using a simple rhinestone chain necklace I picked up in a second hand store.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

And so the potato season begins...

Tomorrow I'll be setting/planting the first potatoes this year. I live on the Bjäre peninsula in southern Sweden, an area with ideal sand soils known for so called "new potatoes" (färskpotatis, nypotatis), i.e. early immature "primeur" potatoes. And especially known for being very early when it comes to harvest. For this, early varieties are used. They can vary over the years, with new varieties coming and old ones going. These last years, we've mostly worked with Rocket, Solist, Minerva and Swift.

It's a race to be the first one to harvest each year. Not just for the glory: the first kilos are sold very expensive to glitzy Stockholm restaurants. First man to begin the season usually get a bit of glory as well as it's always posted in the local paper. This year it happened on March 15th.

I think I might have promised someone last year to show some pics of the machine we're on. Most other potatoes are planted using automatic machines, but the primeurs are pre-cultivated and the machine can damage the sprouts (known as "eels", ålar) so instead farmers still rely on human labour. And that's where I and three others come in.

To plant them, potatoes are taken from the wooden crates and placed one by one in the cups moving on a belt in front of each worker. The potatoes fall to the ground when one ploughshare has first divided the soil and another -- under our seats -- fold the soil back over the potatoes. The tractor moves very slowly. So slow you can walk past it (it's a very dull job, keeping the tractor in a straight line and a pace that makes you fall asleep). But the cups move pretty fast for us and as a newbie it's hard to keep up with the pace.

The discs on chains that you can see on both sides of the machine are used to make a guideline in the soil for the tractor driver so he knows where to position himself (it's always a man driving where I work) for the next round. You lower the wheel on the side not planted on yet.

The field is long, about 270 m or so, but not as wide. Each row is going the length of the field because turning, especially with the big machine used for harvest, is cumbersome and time-consuming. So the longer, the better. You have to prepare the day's work by making sure you have crates in both ends of the field so you can "re-fuel" after each row. When we stand on one side of the field, we can barely see the other side (where those crates are stacked in the pic above).

It's always a bit of a gamble when to start: too early and the night frost will kill most of it, too late and you're not in for the big money as the price of primeur potatoes can drop fast. This race against time has also seen the invention of a practice everyone hates: it looks ugly, it's really really hard work to use and it cost money. The non-woven fabrics that makes the field as white as if covered with snow. They are several metres wide and the length of the fields. And we pull them out by hand. The edges are then covered with soil to keep it from blowing away. Usually some of it does that anyway. Before harvest, it all has to removed again. This time it's usually warm and sunny, which makes the labour even harder. But everyone uses it because they don't want to be left behind, harvesting weeks after the others have already begun...

My sis have a friend that's so used to always eating a proper lunch that she couldn't fathom that we don't eat anything but sandwiches when we work. Not a working class kid that one. Anyway, we eat outdoors or in the shed you see in the background. On warm sunny days it's heaven to eat breakfast and lunch out in the open. Birds singing and you can smell the sea, which is just a stone's trow away. When it's cold and damp it's not as much fun. But the rest of the time, sitting there without a worry I don't envy people that get much better paycheck but are stuck in office buildings all day.

There's a lot of details I could mention. Like how we have to bring a lot of crates, even on the tractor itself and how we constantly stop to move crates so we can reach them. Or how the cogs that moves the cups have to be changed depending on the size of potatoes used as it determines the distance between them when they drop into the soil. But that's probably bore you. (If you're not already bored by this text...)

There's a lot of work involved in potato cultivation, not just during the planting. The fields have to be prepared, which includes weeding, plowing, harrowing, rolling and fertilizing. We can't set the potatoes if it's too wet as the machine gets stuck and some weathers -- like an April snow storm -- are just to tough to work in for us sitting there on the machine, exposed to the winds and downpour. Then there's the covering of the fields, which is done after a first spray with pesticides. During the growth the cover may have to be removed if the potatoes grows to fast due to warm weather. Dry weather means the fields have to be irrigated. Before harvest, a substance that kills the foliage is sprayed on. Then harvest can begin. That's usually sometime in May or June depending on the weather.

If you want to read a bit more about the process of cultivation, check out the Wikipedia article. They don't mention what is probably the worst part of the job, though. It's called harpning in Swedish and is done during winter. A couple of workers have to work indoors with the potatoes dusty from the dried soil. Kilo after kilo have to be sorted into different groups depending on size (and variety, can't mix varieties) and distributed into crates. Second worst part is all the rotting potatoes you will put your fingers into both during planting and harvest. They stink like hell. And the smell gets stuck in you gloves and clothes. On a warm summer's day it's nauseating.

All these photos where taken on April 6th last year.

 Well, I better get to bed soon. Work begins at 7:30 tomorrow. Which is early for setting, but late compared to harvest when we've begun as early as before 6:00 some days.

Anything you still wonder about? Just ask and I'll do my best to explain the wonders of potato cultivation. ;)

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Beaducation giveaway

Beaducation is celebrating Nation Craft Month and now you can find their fourth giveaway on the Beaducation blog. This time the shipping department have put together a mix of mouthwatering supplies and tools (see the pic above). For your chance to win this lovely package, checkout the Beaducation blog before Monday, March 28th, when one lucky winner will be picked.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Vernal visions challenge entry

This is my humble entry for the latest Bead Mavens challenge. The theme was Vernal Visions, celebrating the spring equinox. I didn't think I'd be able to finish it in time as I first injured myself about a week ago and the neck/shoulder pains made it somewhat unpleasant to bead and then -- when I'd finally come up with a design I was ok with for the chain -- I ran out of beads. To top it off, my camera batteries gave up while I tried to get a pic of the finished necklace. But I made it in time anyway. Not a masterpiece compared to some of the other entries, but I like it.

For me, the vernal equinox is all about the return of light and the world -- nature -- once again beginning to turn green. I wanted to capture that sunshine and verdure in a design with beads that would give it a somewhat subtle sparkle, like drops of spring rain on leaves. Using a mix of fire-polished, crystal and glossy seed beads provided a fresh, shiny finish.

The colour palette was determined by the crystal verde rivoli, which is the centre of the design. And which you can't really get a good look at in these pics. It's a green and apricot finish on clear crystal. Very nice and, well, vernal. I wanted to keep my colours restricted to those two so I bezelled the stone using gold lustered green tea seed beads and crystal smoked topaz poudré fire-polished beads. The chain is made using the same beads plus copper-lined olivine fp and 15/0 sparkling honey-lined crystal seed beads.

I blame the neck and shoulder ache for making the necklace too long. About 10 cm too long for me, who like princess length necklaces. But I wouldn't necessarily have to rip up some of the stitches in order to wear it as I can fasten the s-clasp in the open spaces created by the double diamond stitch and thus alter the length. Didn't plan on being able to do that, but I'm glad I thought of it once I realised it was way too long.

PS! You can see all the Vernal Visions challenge entries here.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Bead blog recap weeks 10-11

It's yet again time for a recap of what I've written at Manekis Pärlblogg, my jewellery-making and beading blog in Swedish.

MeTaL from Lilly Pilly

Lilly Pilly Designs is perhaps best known for laser engraved beads and pendants, but now they have a new line, MeTaL, featuring patterned anodized aluminium and patinated copper sheets.

Silvergrejs silver wire contest
Swedish shop Silvergrejs is preparing an inspirational gallery and has announced a contest to find works that will displayed in it.

In Swedish soapstone is known as täljsten, which says something about the properties of this soft stone: it can be carved, sawed and drilled just like wood, making it an ideal material for crafters. Includes links to how-tos for working with the stone.

Year of Jewelry, second quarter sign-up dates

Right now, you can register if you want to start participating in the year-long jewellery making challenge Year of Jewelry (YOJ). As before, the challenge spans all year, but you can choose to parttake in as many of the four quarters the challenge is divided in as you like.

Ring a Week
There are many challenges for jewellery makers and beaders. Some have themes while others are totally free, some are more like contests while others are just for personal growth. Ring a Week (RAW) is a personal challenge where you post a pic of each ring you make in the challenge's Flickr pool.

Crazy quilt beads
How to make beads and pendants using miniature crazy quilts.

Spring blossom
Spring is in the air (despite the occasional snow) and so here are a few floral jewellery projects perfect for the season ahead. Also a collection of links to other blog posts I've made on flower themes.

Vintaj April challenge
The theme for Vintaj's monthly challenge this time is Woodland Blush.

Make colour samples with your seed beads
It can be hard to visualize how certain seed bead colous will look when stitched together unless you first make samples. Samples can also be useful to carry with you when visiting a bead shop, looking for matching beads.

Pearl and jump ring pendant
On the Beadalon Blog you can find this simple but pretty project, using a few jump rings and leftover beads.

Make a creative workspace using scents

Olfaction can be one of our most powerful senses: a whiff of a special scent or fragrance can make you recall childhood memories or induce certain feelings. You can use this to make your workspace more inspirational by e.g. lightling a scented candle or diffusing essential oils.

Ergonomics is important to jewellery makers and beaders. It's very easy to work in a position that can cause strain injuries and which in turn can lead to long-term problems. It's not just a matter of posture, but also about finding the right light, ergonomic tools that are easier on the hands and remembering to take breaks.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Rings & Things copper bead design challenge

On Thursday, March 24, you can be one of fifteen persons to win a packet of satin-finish brushed copper beads from Rings & Things by enterering their new design challenge. If you are picked, you'll have one month to create something with the beads sent to you and e-mail pics of your creations. Amongst the entries, a winner will be choosen who will get a surprise pack of jewellery supplies from the shop.

If the mere sight of these lovely beads make you drool, don't miss this opportunity. Click your way over to the R&T blog for your chance to win!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Giveaways -- books, beads, filigree pendants and letter stamps

Bumping down the snowdrop pics a bit to tell you about a handful of different giveways you might be interested in entering. (Sorry, no pics of the yummy blog candy you can win.)

Seed beads
First up is Lori Anderson's seed bead giveaway (by Auntie's Beads) at her blog Pretty Things. Last day to enter is March 31th.

Kumihimo Wire Jewelry book
Craft Gossip is giving away a copy of Kumihimo Wire Jewelry, a book featuring twenty jewellery projects made using the japanese braiding technique known as kumihimo. But instead of using fibre, this book focus on braiding with wire. Ends on April 1st.

Silver filigree pendant & gift tags
At All things paper is another giveway where you can win a small sterling silver filigree pendant by Charmaine Gerada. That's real filigree, not cast or stamped metal. On top of that the winner will also get a packet of letterpress gift tags by Melissa Bilyeu. Ends tomorrow, March 18th.

Letter stamp set
Beaducaution is celebrating National Craft Month by giving away a set of Beaducation Original letter stamps. Winner will be picked on Monday 21st.

Handmade argentium silver findings
And last but not least G8findings is giving away a package of handmade silver components made in argentium silver. That is, a sterling silver alloy that's not as prone to tarnish as regular silver.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011


Earlier than last year (due to the long, snowy winter), but later than the year before, which was a "normal" warm Skåne winter. It's almost a tradition for me to take out my camera and capture the first spring flowers, especially waiting for the snowdrops. Here's a handful photos documenting the event this year. Some are from yesterdays, the rest I got earlier today.

I've got a new pic of a couple of the winter aconites as well:

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

More etching: Butterfly meadow onyx pendant

I found this pic on my computer. It's an onyx pendant I etched at the same time I made the bird pendant for Joanna. To make it I composed a scene using several different peel-off stickers or parts of stickers. The stone covered by stickers stay shiny while the rest of the surfaces i frosted by the etch.

I'm still pretty much a beginner at etching motifs like this. When etching on stone it's not just a risk of etching too deep, but also that etching too much can bring out some unwanted surprises like bandning in the stone. That happened to another bird pendant I did in the same batch. And in the pendant above, you can see another problem: the pale lines where the cream (I presume) starts to get in under the edges of the stickers. I hope cutting the etching time will eliminate the problem because these really were etched a few minute more than necessary.

I like the touch of velvet matte stone, but the reason I've made several stone pendants is at least partially because I found it easier to get by black stone pendants than simple, unadorned glass pendants.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Little signs of spring

These last days have been sunny and windy. While the wind and lack of clouds nighttime means it's been pretty cold, the sunny is such a lovely sign: spring is on its way. Still too cold for the flowers -- this is how far the winter aconites have come. The snowdrops aren't budding yet. Late winter isn't very scenic, but with spring approaching and the sun shining, I took my camera and went for a walk with a cat, Randa, by my side.

The world has mainly two colours right now: a special kind of powdery blue (the sky) and golden tan (the ground, subtly reflecting the rays of sunshine). Very little green, though I see new leaves and a few patches of green grass and moss amongst all the hay and dead leaves.

Slightly montone, but if the weather is right and you manage to capture the colours it can be nice. Afraid I don't have that many good pics that really did that this time...

If some of the photos look hazy it's not so much the weather as a late winter/early spring -- we call this time vårvinter, spring winter -- tradition of burning in the fields. Farmer burning branches from pruned trees and such, far away (hopefully) from any grass that might catch on fire.

As I've mentioned before, the Bjäre peninsula is known for its abundance of Bronze Age burial mounds. These are a few I can see from home (as in our land, not from the house). In the old days, it was believed that trolls lived in the mounds. Not the grotesque giants of Scandinavian -- most notably Norwegian -- folklore and modern fantasy novels, but almost a sort of southern swedish version of faerie. Not fairy as in pixie, big as humans. Social beings with riches that look rather similar to humans but with special magical powers (e.g. invisibility).

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Bead blog recap weeks 8-9

If you (like me) are still blog hopping
this is what you're looking for.

Here you will as usual find a recap of what I've written on my other blog, Manekis Pärlblogg, these last two weeks. Note that I write that blog in Swedish, but you can translate it using Google Translate (there's even a nifty gadget for that under each post: place your cursor on the orange plus button and choose Translate). Far from perfect translations, but at least most of the links are to webpages etc written in English.

Lark Books: Call for submissions

Craft and jewellery book publisher Lark is looking for submissions to the project book 30 minute bracelets as well as objects for 500 rings and Mary Hettmansperger's new book Heat, Color, Set & Decorate.

Artisan Search 2012
If you're in to mixed media, Artisan Search by mixed media magazine Cloth Paper Scissors might be for you. This year, it's open to us outside the US as well.

Stamens for your flowers
If you want flowers to look realistic, they aught to have stamen. You can add this in diffrent ways: beads on dangling head pins, bead caps etc.

Spring challenges
Tips on different challanges (with or without prizes) that you can participate in during March: Art Bead Scene, Vintaj, Bead Mavens, Operation Tackle That Bead Stash, Margie and Me.

Ballet -- inspired by a movie

The critically acclaimed movie Black Swan has also inspired fashion designers in different ways. Here are examples of jewellery -- black and/or white in a romantic, gothic or modern style -- that might inspire you to also make something in the style.

Beads of Clay Open Studio event

Tomorrow, members of Beads of Clay, a place to find ceramic bead makers, are holding a virtual open studio event via their blogs. Interact with the bead makers and participate in giveaways.

Bead catalogues
Online shops have many advantages, but there's still something special about having a printed catalogue to flip through. Here's a small list of Swedish, American and British catalogues you can order for free or for a fee (ranging from small to substantial, usually depending on postage costs). Note: a few of links, mainly to the US shops, go to the international catalogue order forms: if you're in the same country as the shop, make sure to order the right -- cheaper -- version.

Projects from Preciosa and Lark Crafts
Some bead shops, bead manufacturers and bead book publishers publish free projects for you online. One manufacturer who recently began doing this is Czech Preciosa. Lark gives you free projects from their books.

New bead embroidery book from Sherry Serafini
Serafini, admired by many, has written a new book on bead embroidery that'll soon hit the book stores. Check out Lark's website for more info and a couple of free projects from the pages of the book. They also mention a bead embroidery book by Jamie Cloud Eakin will be published this autumn.

Don't miss contests
If you're looking for info current design contests in this blog, make sure to go back months as some of the bigger contests are open for a long time or are announced month before entries are accepted.

Fashion Colorworks 2011
It's time for the second annual Fashion Colorworks design contest were you created inspired by three colour palettes choosen from the Pantone fashion forecast.

Make your own burnishers
You can make your own burnishers using steel tools, stones (agate, jade, hematite) or borosilicate glass instead of buying the tools ready made.

Super RAW
Gwen Fisher (beAd Infinitum) shows how to stitch a decorative and sturdy right-angle weave variation using two sizes of beads.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Giveaways: Golem studio beads, SoftFlex wire and online jewellery class

Andrew Thornton is hosting a new giveaway. This time you can win a colourful treasure of ceramic beads and a bird pendant from bulgarian Golem Studio (see photo). As an added bonus, a SoftFlex Extreme Trio will be part of the prize as well. The Extremes are high quality beading wires in luxurious precious metal colours: 24 k gold, sterling silver and champagne.

For your chance to win, check out Andrew's blog.

And now over to my second tip. Beaducation is celebrating the american National Craft Month by having weekly giveaways. This week you can win an online class of your choice from their inspiring selection of over 60 classes ranging from wirework, fusing and felting to torch-fired enamelling, chain making and seedbeading.

To enter the giveaway, head over to the Beaducation blog.

In both cases, a winner will be picked on Monday. Good luck!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Glass etching: mixing shiny and frosted glass

I mentioned, when I reveiled my bead soup, that I'd partially etched the glass buttons Joanna gave me. And I also said I'd write a bit more about that later. Well, this is later. And I'll try my best to explain, though I'm not sure how clear it's end up being.

You can see one of the buttons above, but it's probably difficult to see what the etching did to it. Especially since I etched them all. So I found some glass mosiac I've etched earlier, which will illustrate this post. Unfortunately, I didn't have any transparent glass that was fully etched on one side and left unaltered on the other. The pics are 500-600 pixels wide so you can click on them to see full scale, making the details more visible.

Above you see two clear glass tiles that's been etched using ethcing cream. With clear glass, the difference between the untouched glass and the etched glass is very visible. Clear glass looks like frost (hence why etched glass is referred to as frosted), a transparent white. Light doesn't just shine right through it when the surface, on one or more sides, is matte. Some of it is reflected in a different way, which our eyes see as a colour. If you look closely, you'll actually see the pattern on the paper, not just the colour through the glass. So it's not heavy and opaque, frosted beads still feel light compared to opaque beads, matte or shiny.

Seeing it from the side might help showing the depth. See the shadow? It's the etched parts of the glass that hinders some of the light, unlike the areas left unetched. The grooves and dimples are not a result of the etching, the mosaic tiles came with those marks of air bubbles on the back: in fact, if you etch the glass deeply they'd be removed. Though grinding them down would probably be faster.

Now, with the buttons I figured that etching them would bring out some of the colours, seeing that they were so pale. But I didn't want to take away the shiny surface as the other beads were shiny. So I only etched the backs. As you can see above, etching the flipside gives you the benefit of an etched surface as well as keeping the surface closest to you nice and shiny. Like a glass carving or one of those cast glass stones with relief motifs that are etched afterwards.

When you etch a motif like I've done with the tile seen here, you can choose to use it with the motif on the front or on the back. Flipping it so the motif is on the back gives a feeling of it being encapsulated rather than floating on top of the etched glass. The matte surface above it acts like a haze, softening it (and making it hard for the camera to focus on it).

So there you have it: I etched one side to get more of a colours as the frosted surface reflects more light, while the unaltered surface on the other side still adds a nice shine. I like shiny glass. I like frosty glass. Sometimes mixing the two gives even better results.

If you want to see more glass and stone I've etched -- some of them with motifs, some without -- check out the label Etched stone/glass on this blog. (There's also some tumbled glass under that label: it gives a similar finish on glass as etching does, but there are differences.)

How to etch glass
To add a frosted finish to glass, you either use an etching product or sandblast. I use the former; more precisely Etchall Etching Cream. They do both creams and the much more fluid dips. The latter is perfect for items you want to etch all over -- like beads -- as you just dip them into the liquid, which is as fluid as water. The former is thicker and especially useful when etching motifs onto a surface, e.g. when making pendants, but a bit messier. I've only used cream as it's the product that I've found easiest to obtain in Sweden. Here, you can find it in online craft/scrapbooking shops. Otherwise, you'll find various etching fluids and etching creams from sellers specialising in glasswork (e.g. lampwork suppliers). Some bead shops also sell it. Two common brans are Etchall and Armour Etch.

To make a motif, you cover some of the glass with a protective film, a resist. That can be a sticker, white glue, paint, melted embossing powder, special products from the etch manufacturers (e.g. vinyl, resist gel) etc. After you've etched the glass, the resist is removed. Stickers and glue easily fall off when you wash and clean the glass to remove the etching cream. Etchall mentions some of the options here.

Note: While you can use this etching cream successfully on most glass beads and many (semi-precious) stones like agate, you can't etch borosilicate glass (aka pyrex, boro) as it's too hard.

I've written more about etching (in Swedish) on my other blog.
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