Tuesday, November 24, 2015

I am Hosting a Design Challenge!

Hi everyone!  Michelle from Firefly Design Studio here :)  I am excited to announce I will be hosting my first design challenge in January 2016.  Next week the ceramic bead kits will be available to purchase on my etsy site.  The first challenge theme is paisleys.  I have 2 color combos to choose from....bright and neutral.  The kits are $20 and include a pendant, a bracelet topper, 2 flower discs, 2 12mm hand rolled spacer beads, 2 head pins, 2 paisley imprinted flat beads (not pictured) and a surprise bead from a guest artist (not pictured).

My first guest artist is Shannon Vickers from Blue Blazes Lampwork.  Shannon is from Fort Myers, Florida and I have gotten to know her through bead shows we have sold at together.  I love her work and I think you will, too.  She has designed a wonderful bead to coordinate with my 2 color palettes.

The rules are simple....you will design a necklace, bracelet and earring set and have to use everything you receive in the kit.  Of course any beading technique and any other goodies from your own stash is what will make the challenge interesting.  I will be laying out the timeline to get everything completed on the group Facebook challenge page.  

The challenges will be quarterly.  I know the second challenge will be bird related and the Summer challenge will take us to the beach.  Voting will be by the jewelry design only...no name will be attached to the design.  Also...there are prizes!  $100 in beads for 1st prize, $50 in beads for 2nd prize and $25 in beads for 3rd prize.  If you'd like to follow along and join the fun, please feel free to join the group!

Firefly Design Studio Design Challenge Group

Monday, November 23, 2015

Amuse the Muse - Handmade Findings - with Rebecca of Songbead

Hello all! It's another week - another Muse post :-) I've got more lovely handmade findings to add that extra special finishing touch to your designs. Here goes!

Kristen shared her awesome enamel clasp with us in the comments 2 weeks ago - look at that blue! 

Miss Fickle Media shows that even the humble jump ring can be elevated to something special:

Don't forget your earwires! They can really elevate a special pair of earrings:

Some more awesome earwires from Niky too! 

Sometimes, it's the clasp that is the statement piece of a design. Heather's one is perfect:

Or how about this one from Mary? 

And now for the BeadBlogger Links. Have a great week everyone!

Rebecca is a Scottish jewellery designer; currently living in the capital city of Edinburgh. You can read more about her and her work at her blog, songbeads.blogspot.com and see more of her jewellery at songbead.etsy.com. She also has a supplies shop at thecuriousbeadshop.etsy.com.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

a (Facebook) group of your own - with Julie of Uglibeads!

Facebook groups have been around for a long time, but they are really gaining momentum! Whatever you love to make, share, or learn about, for every medium and technique imaginable - chances are good that there is a group for that.

Each group will vary in what sorts of things people are invited to post. A group may be dedicated to sharing new work, exchanging technical tips, providing fun challenges and inspiration, or reserved exclusively for auctions or sales of the members' work. Michelle McCarthy wrote a short post here not too long ago about buying and selling in the larger Facebook groups, but today, I wanted to take the time to share some of the wonderful things about having your own Facebook group! 

For those of you who are considering starting a group of your own - I'm here to encourage you and give you a gentle nudge to take the leap! We all need a little push sometimes.

The best way to get a feel for how groups work is to join a few. If you'd like to focus on selling your work in your own group, I think it's an excellent idea to try your hand at selling in some of the larger art jewelry or component auction groups first. You'll get the nuts and bolts down in no time, and you can perfect your descriptions, policies, and the steps you need to take to complete the sale - messaging, invoicing, etc. It's good to have a system all worked out - it makes life a lot easier. You will make some great connections with people who love your work and enjoy the experience of buying on Facebook. When the time comes, many of them will be happy to follow your sales in your own group.

It's also a great chance to observe how the groups are organized and how the group administrators handle the day-to-day operations. You'll get a feel for some of the little hiccups that come up from time to time in the groups (non-payment is one that you may run into) and how those hiccups can be handled smoothly.

To get a feel for the buyer's perspective, join a few groups where you can purchase work from artists you love - and give buying during an auction or a sale a try! Once you get going with it, (as long as you have time to follow the posts) purchasing beautiful and unique items on Facebook, directly from the artist, is remarkably easy!

(Just a note - many groups are 'closed' groups - you must request to join to participate. This protects the privacy of the group members, and helps the owner of the group to avoid spammy posts. When you join a group, have a peek around. If it's not your cup of tea, simply click on the 'Leave Group' button up top. It's very easy peasy.)

After some time spent participating in other groups, you may feel yourself longing for a place you can call your own. Just like the things you make, your group is your creation, and it will be a reflection of your unique style, personality, and artistic interests. You can guide it in any direction you choose, and build a space where you feel truly comfortable being your authentic self.

Sell your work, share in-progress photos, videos, workspace shots, inspiring quotes or photos, stories, insight into your life as an artist, giveaways, challenges - it's your group, so anything goes! I even hosted a fun chocolate swap in my group this past summer!

If you enjoy writing or story-telling, a group is an especially great place to do that. Joanne Louvaine-Bell has a special group to showcase her creations (Twinkiedinky (handmade jewellery by Joanne Bell) showground group). She's an absolutely *beautiful* writer, and her group reflects her love for weaving a tale around her work. Is this magical 'Moth Bracelet' not the most gorgeous thing ever?:

Joanne has an event coming up at the end of the month in her group called 'Princesses Behaving Badly.' Inviting her group members to stop by, she writes:

"Mirror Mirror on the tree... Let's ask a few to follow me... Into magic and through the leaves, past the glades and over streams.... Jewellry as a Narrative. Fresh and New. Stories. Glories. Follow do....."

Who wouldn't be intrigued by that? Joanne says, "My showground group is like a little pop up shop where I am free to be essentially me. Where I have the freedom to tell lengthy meandering tales of the why of a piece, inspired by a theme. I'm in a billion groups but that one is all mine."

I really feel the same way. In your own little corner of the overwhelmingly huge world of Facebook, you get to set the tone. It's all about having the space to interact on a much more personal level with the people who love what you do. 

Maria Grimes is a lampwork bead and jewelry maker, and her group is called 'Garden Path Beads by Maria Grimes'. In addition to beads and jewelry, she also sells her *ridiculously* cute sculptural creations there:

Maria says, "There are so many wonderful things about having a Facebook group... I think my favorite is being able to interact with my customers. I also think my customers like being able to interact with each other, there's sense of community there. It's a fun place to gather and see some of the happenings in my studio, from new beads to Miss Molly's shenanigans (who is in charge of shipping and receiving)."

I couldn't agree more. Having a group is a fantastic (and fun!) opportunity for people who are interested in your work to get to know you a little better. Maria is the loveliest, kindest, friendliest person you could imagine, and this shines through in the way she runs her group. You can't help but feel welcome, and to develop a deeper connection with her work because of the extra-special person (and cute little shipping assistant!) behind it.

Kristi Bowman-Gruel started her group (KristiBowmanDesign) to share what she is up to in her studio, or as she says, "A little peek inside my world!" She has been posting some new, exciting work for sale there too - I hope she will list more of these totally amazing copper beads soon:

One of my favorite things about Kristi's group is that in addition to new work, she's been sharing some behind-the scenes process photos too. She has some veeeeeeerrry interesting new components in the works, using the electroforming setup that she shows here: 

I think those peeks behind-the-scenes are really valuable. The more we can learn about what goes into handcrafting beautiful things, the more we appreciate how special they are.

Kristi says, "Even though putting yourself out there to the world is good, posting to all kinds of groups and sites, having a smaller group of people who you know are interested in your work is more intimate."

Jewelry designer Suhana Hart also runs a fabulous group for sharing her work, called 'Buttoned Up Beads (Handmade Jewellery by Suhana Hart)'. 

I'm just a little obsessed with her gorgeous wrap bracelets that can also be worn as a necklace:

Like most of us who have our own groups, Suhana also loves the interaction and says the best thing about the group format is "interacting with my customers and knowing my posts will be seen by more than a handful of my fans.

And she makes an excellent point - when Facebook changed the way posts from business pages were seen, it became far more difficult to connect with your audience. Group posts seem to have a greater reach and engagement tends to be much, much higher. For that reason, in addition to selling your work directly in the group, it's also a great place to announce Etsy sales, blog posts, and other non-Facebook happenings.

The amount of time and effort you wish to devote to your group is up to you. It can be an enormous (and worthwhile) investment of energy if you really love to interact with your group members and to get to know everyone, but you can also decide to stick to 'for sale' posts. You have the freedom to pop in only when it works for you. I've been experimenting with having a short auction on some Saturday mornings, when I'm available to chat and catch up with everyone. During the rest of the week, I'm around a little less, but many of 'the Uglipeeps' (my beloved group members) keep the party going! It's a lot of fun to watch. They often share photos of their beads when they arrive, and the beautiful creations they are making. It's a very friendly bunch of people, and I also encourage folks who don't necessarily buy lampwork to join in and feel part of the community.

At the beginning of November, I celebrated the one year anniversary of my group (Uglibeads - lampwork beads by Julie Wong Sontag). This group has been so vital to the growth of my business over the last year, I can't even tell you. A year seems like a long time ago, but I vividly remember the feeling of clicking on that 'Create Group' button. It was totally scary! What if no one joins? What if no one participates? Of course, we all have those fears and doubts - but don't let that stop you. 

I posted the following quote when I had about 150 members in my group - just taking a moment to reflect on what a wonderful experience it had been up to that point. It's a good one to keep in mind whenever you're considering taking a big step forward - 

"In the end, we only regret the chances we didn't take, the relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make." - Lewis Carroll

To my group members I said, "Being able to share my work with you is the greatest gift imaginable" and I still feel that way every single day.

I now have 500 members in my group, and it's been so much more fun and rewarding than I could ever have imagined. So much sharing, so much growth, so many special relationships, so much inspiration.

So - if you've been thinking about it....... Take a deep breath, and dive in! Joanne, Maria, Kristi, Suhana and I all did it - we love it - and so will you :)

Do you have your own group? Do you have favorite artists you love to follow in their groups? Have they helped you connect in a deeper way with other art bead and jewelry fans? Is your gut telling you that you would love to have your own group? Your thoughts are always welcome in the comments below!

Until next time...


<<  >> --- << >>

Julie is a glass beadmaker with a passion for building community and inspiring conversation around her writing. Her best work comes from that magical place where nature meets creative flow. She is fascinated by all things weird and wonderful. You will find her hanging out most days in her Uglibeads Facebook group or on Instagram, and you're invited to join in the adventure by signing up for her weekly email newsletter.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Inside the Studio with Humblebeads

Each week one of our contributors gives you a sneak peek into their studio, creative process or inspirations. We ask a related question of our readers and hope you'll leave comments! As an incentive, we offer a prize each week to encourage you to use that keyboard and tell us what you think. The following week a winner is chosen at random from all eligible entries. And here are the results from last week!

Congratulations Kathleen Thompson
You have won a £10 voucher for either Songbead or The Curious Bead Shop.
Contact Rebecca to claim your prize!

Well I'm short on words and long on pictures today. In my studio this week there have been a few jewelry making marathons squeezed in during a some late nights. I have a show this weekend, my only in-person one of the season. I'm really looking forward to a fun weekend.  I had some things in stock from a recent art market, like the collection above.

One thing I wanted to do for this show was to create jewelry inspired by the projects in my new book, Beautiful Elements. The oak leaf pendants featured in a chapter of the book and I think hands down it's one of my favorite designs - although I love all the projects in the book. The oak leaves just make me happy. I paired them with Humblebeads disks and ceramic rounds from White Clover Kiln that were transformed into acorns.

The new book focuses quite a bit on a technique that I call Metal Sketches, were I use different mark-making techniques to create images on metal like the evergreen bracelet below and the birch bark cuffs.

 Must make more of these after the show - and one for myself.

It took me a few trials but I was determined to create a holly leaf using the metal sketch technique. I used a patina to create a the green and green/blue hues. Feeling very festive.  I also did some large holly leaves as ornaments too.

And these cuties, I've been making these tree pins for a few years now. Actually I designed them and taught Jess to make them - so they are actually his handiwork! I decided to do some in bronze and silver this year. I also make earrings that go with these, not everything on my table has art beads. Some are simple beaded pieces that work with the rest of my jewelry but I can offer at a much lower price point. Sometimes you need those under $25 impulse buys!

And at the opposite end of the spectrum are these amazing lampwork butterfly wing beauties from Kim Snider. Mixed with Humblebeads and White Clover Kiln ceramic beads.

And these fun ones, I keep things simple and create the same designs using variations with different beads, much like Rebecca shared last week.

And more simple pieces to vary the price points on my table.

And there are lots of earrings, but most of them are simple designs with slight variations. I also do a lot of metal work with tiny leaves and birch branches made from wire.

And then these guys - always best sellers. Probably because they make a great gift since memory wire can fit any size.

There are so many more pieces. Tomorrow I will have  a few hours to set up my display and edit my offerings to keep things simple and easy for buyers. I don't put everything out because I think too many choices are overwhelming.

After my show I'll be selling what I have left online. My question for you is where is your favorite place to sell/buy handmade online - Etsy, your website, Facebook or some place else? Leave a comment and a random will be picked next week for a $30 gift certificate to Humblebeads.com.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Interview with Kathrin Kneidl of Donna Perlinplim

My interviewee today is a bead artist I have admired for some time now. Her shop was one of those happy and rare Etsy finds, which have you thinking, 'Oooo, look, that's a bit different... and a bit fabulous!'.  You may know her as Donna Perlinplim, the monicker of her shop, or as Kathrin Kneidl.  She has a style that is full of eclecticism,  yet all her pieces are immediately recognisably hers.  Having built up quite a hoard of her beads, and having developed a weakness for checking her shop regularly to see what is new, I was more than a little intrigued to find out more about Kathrin and her work. 

How long have you been working with clay and how did you first get into it?

I have been taking classes in ceramics ever since my college days in Berlin - that's were I am from originally. It all started with a friend who had a friend who was teaching, so we went together to give it a try and I got hooked. Only I never seemed to know what I wanted to make. ‘Make shoes’, my Dad suggested. So I made lots of weird big shoes.

Pretty soon after that I left Germany to live in England and later Israel, little knowing that I took the love for clay with me, like a precious seed that needed to be planted when the time was right.

What lead you to start making beads?

At the age of 30 I made a drastic geographical and career change. I moved to Israel for love and
worked as a goldsmith for some years. I had dreamt about that also. For a long time I wanted to be a goldsmith but when I had learned and worked like many times before, I got bored with it. Something was missing in my life: color and creativity. And that's when I discovered that one could make beads, glass beads at first. I was one of the first in Israel who learned to make glass beads and actually sold them but I also was (and still am) a terrible business woman. I won't go into that; it’s a painful subject. The best shot I had at selling was on Ebay auctions where I was spared the embarrassment of pricing my beads. But that was when Ebay was still fun and one could find cool stuff there without ploughing through a gazillion reseller shops.

The whole time however I was taking evening classes in ceramics and dreaming of an ideal world where I wouldn’t need money and could just be playing with clay all day and all night. Somebody had given me a small kiln which gave me the idea to make ceramic buttons. From buttons to beads it was just a small step. I dismounted my lampworking torch, gave away most of my glass rods, and used the free space for new adventures with clay.

Do you ever make jewellery or do you prefer just to make beads?

To see the finished beads always inspires me to make more beads, with that the creative process ends for me. When I made the glass beads it was a chore for me to string them into necklaces and bracelets for shops. I was always happy to give a heap of beads to friends or the kids to string them for me and they loved doing it. A win win situation, like now. I make the beads and talented artists like yourself make them sing.  It’s awesome. What you come up with I could never think of.

Do you work on your ceramics full time or do you fit it in alongside another career?

I have another shop on Etsy, Resplendent Rags where I sell my OOAK dresses, which are just like the beads. Quirky and unpredictable, on the verge of being too weird. It’s not always easy to coordinate those two passions; they behave like jealous lovers and I tend to feel guilty towards the one I neglect at the time I am busy with the other. At least I managed to reduce myself from many more creative interests. No humble-bragging intended, it is a serious obstacle to do too many things, consequently getting nothing done. Let alone make ends meat.

You have a very particular style that I find really appealing, but I’m not sure how exactly I’d describe it. How would you describe it?  Would you say you have a wider aesthetic that informs what you do?

If we mean the same thing by wider aesthetic I believe this is necessary for anything of value.
It is certainly not something I could claim for myself, hence have it. Sometimes I can go to that place where  I lose myself in what I am doing and whatever comes out of that state feels right somehow. As children when painting or playing we are at home in that place, in that Garden of Eden where one is in bliss, untouched by the world. 

I remember precisely when I got kicked out of that realm, when one day I had lost the freedom to paint and create and started to be critical and competitive in everything I did. Later, in college (I studied fashion design), we were all killing ourselves to think up something original, breathtaking. Nobody knew anything about how to teach creativity.

But when did the ideas came? In dreams, or when I was able to let go. Meditation is a great way to creativity. I get still angsty when I think about having to make something. Every time I forget that this place is always there, it never leaves us and anybody can go there. The late German artist and anthroposophist Joseph Beuys stated once: ’every person is an artist.’  I totally believe in that...

I see you make other, functional pieces (including some fabulous mugs!), as well as some decorative items. Can you tell us something more about this side of your work and how it relates to your bead making?

Before, when I had the wee kiln I thought it would be wonderful to make mugs taller than 10 cm. When that kiln broke down I was forced to buy a new one. An opportunity came up and suddenly I was looking into this abyss of a kiln. Now what? How am I going to ever fill this up with beads?
In order to be able to fire my beloved beads I have to make larger objects. Tough luck.
I am not complaining: it is great to have more freedom, not to be restricted so much in size. Yet it always amuses me how every dream realized comes with stuff that wasn’t part of the dream.

Another good thing if someone likes my style but has no use for beads, he or she could enjoy a mug, a tile or even a dress.

What is your workspace like?

I have forcibly turned every home I ever had into a workspace. My current dwelling place used to be a class room, later a canteen kitchen, and now it is my studio, sewing space, kitchen, bedroom and dog shelter in that order. The kiln is in the garden. It forces me to be reasonably organised and keep my supply shopping binges in check, so i guess it is a good lesson.

Are there any ceramicists, artists, or bead makers that you’ve found particularly influential or that you particularly admire?

There is one ceramic artist - sadly, I don’t recall her name. (Maybe someone who reads this can help me out.) I really liked her work. It was so unusual and authentic. Simple shapes called ‘cake’ or ‘soap’ glazed with strange structured glazes that could either be highly intricate formulas which took years to develop or something gone wrong in the kiln. It might be as well that I don’t remember her name, in case she were ever to read this.

My favourite artists are my favourites not exclusively for their art but also what they stand for, as far as this is known. The list is long and more are added every week, especially writers as I read a lot. Shall I name a few? The painter Morandi, my sister Franziska Kneidl, Hieronymus Bosch, Lady Gaga, Yohji Yamamoto, Gerhard Richter, Saul Bellow, Rohinton Mistry, Guy Ritchie, the earlier mentioned Beuys, Fabio Moro, gakkinx, Marina Abramovic and the list goes on and on and on.

What plans do you have for the future? Where would you like to take your work next?

I am also curious where my work will take me next. Just recently I have discovered overglaze painting which I am excited to try on beads. Making my own glazes is something that has intrigued me so I hope to be doing that, also working with porcelain which I have never done. And then of course there are fabrics to be cut, stitched, painted and assembled. But truth be told I don’t look very far in the future.

Thank you, Kathrin, for such full and fascinating answers! To see (/shop) Kathrin's work, head this way!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Perfect Pairings :: SJ Designs + Tesori Trovati

I am a smitten kitten! I don't go seeking my own pieces for the Perfect Pairings but I couldn't help myself with this one! I send out these pieces into the world and hope that they will inspire the one who received them to transform them into something special, something that I could not possibly have imagined. When I happen to spot them in designs, I get a little electric thrill. I am particularly fond of this new pendant that I created that I call, "Love, Autumn" for I feel that the explosion of color and pattern and patina during the all-too-short fall season is like a love letter from nature to all of us. This design was the piece I sent out to the Simple Truths Sampler Club for November (although they actually got them about a week early and were able to see a sneak peek of a part of the inspiration for the month since I sent them a bit earlier than usual). I love what Miss Sarajo has done here. The pairing of the muted colors in the Czech beads echoes the tones in the leafy pendant. I think that the asymmetry works so well here and really leads your eye. The design is perfectly balanced. This is a necklace that I would be proud to wear, but even more proud to have a part in! 

Featured Designer :: SJ Designs


Featured Bead Artist :: Tesori Trovati

We are now using Pinterest! 
You can find more details in this post about the exciting new changes
including a board devoted to art beads inspired by the monthly challenge!
(Ooh! Look! More pretty beads to lust after!)

Pretty please make sure that you post a link in your Pinterest description so that I have someplace to attribute the picture! 

And don't forget to tell us about those art beads - providing links to bead makers is appreciated!

Deadline to get your pictures posted to the Pinterest boards for the creation of the
Monthly Challenge Recap post is November 28th

TIP: If you upload your photo to pin it rather than pin it from your blog or shop, edit the pin (the little pencil button) and add your link as the source. Save your edits. This will allow us to click directly on your photo and go to your blog or shop to read more about your entry. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

5th Art Bead Scene Ornament Blog Hop

Jingle, jingle, merry and bright! Join in the 5th Art Bead Scene Ornament Blog Hop. We have had such a great time with our past events, I can't wait to see what you come up with this year.

How to play along:

1. Sign up to let me know you are planning to participate.

2. Create an ornament using handmade components or art beads. 

3. December 9th post your ornament on your blog.

4. On December 10th you'll link your blog post here with the InLinkz linking tool and join me for a Holiday blog party with a few giveaways and free tutorial! 

This is an inclusive creative challenge - we'd love to see Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Winter Solstice themed decorations along with traditional Christmas ornaments. Have fun!

Pictured above are some ornaments that I created for previous hops.

Have questions? Feel free to leave them in the comment section.