Monday, August 31, 2015

Making Wild Horse Beads: The "Hole" Story

This weekend I had a mess of various polymer colors scattered over my worktable (in addition to some leftover leather scraps from another project)—I've been working on a few new color schemes for my Flying Arrow Horses.

These little horses are currently my most favorite bead to make. Okay, yeah I have to admit that my favorite bead to make changes quite a lot… but there's really nothing wrong with that—I love making what I love making most and enjoy going with that flow.

For all my Wild Horse beads the most tricky part of their making is piercing the hole, or at least it was and for the longest time I put off making them because I didn't like doing the holes. If you've ever tried to pierce a nice, long straight hole through a long, thin piece of squishy polymer and actually get it to end up where you want it at the other side, and without damaging the detail you have so carefully created, you know what I mean! It wasn't until one of my lovely customers asked me about making horses that I started to consider it more seriously and finally I made my first batch of Wild Horses and in the process figured out how to make piercing easier and nearly fool proof. I highly doubt if I'm the first one to do holes this way, but whatever… I just love that it works for me!

So today… you have my Wild Horse "Hole" Story…

They all start out in a mold that I made from my original sculpture. Yes, I use molds for many of my beads—they make it SO much easier to make dozens of the same shape without the annoyance and extra time of trying to match them up. I only cast for the most simple details, and then add the rest by hand. Right before I remove the horse from the mold, I use a large needle to create the hole channel—the key to my easy hole!

I do all the detailing with the little horse resting on the needle, this fills in the hole and keeps it from collapsing while I work.

Once the details are all applied and I'm happy with them, I test each horse to ensure they can stand. I love that these beads would also be perfectly happy living in a shadow box!

They then must pass inspection from my sweet little cat Grapenut, aka Mr Fluffy. He often sits in my lap while I work, chin resting on my table, watching the beads take shape. He takes is job very seriously and was bugged by the fact that I wanted to take his photo!

After a short trip to the oven for the first curing, I fill in the hole channels with raw polymer.

I add a thick layer of polymer to the back, trim…  

… and finally pierce! The piercing runs smoothly through the raw polymer filled channel giving you a nice clean and straight hole!

And lastly, I carefully trim away the back to give it a more finished carved texture. 

One horse completed and ready for final curing… time for another cup of coffee and more horse making!

And here's the finished result… after a few washes of paint and polishing…

These are my russet brown horses… the palomino horses that I was working on in this post weren't quite ready for a photo shoot, but will be following after into my shop in the next few days!

The End.

Rebekah Payne
Tree Wings Stuido

Friday, August 28, 2015

Free Tutorial - BiBo Buttons

I know we have talked about many of the new beads that have been introduced just this year.  It has been rather overwhelming in the community trying to decide what to play with.  I have been lucky enough to have gotten my hot little hands on some so I thought, with a little push from my teammates, to show you a couple I absolutely love.  So much so that I have come up with a little tutorial for you.

Button Beads are tiny little 4mm funky beads that have me totally infatuated. They are the brain child of the fabulous Sabine Lippert of Trytobead.  You will see in the bracelet they look to me like little nailheads when woven. 
I have been eyeing up these BiBo beads for quite awhile and I can tell you they do not disappoint at all. I love the shape.  Like a twin or superduo they have two holes but instead of having a fatter middle they are larger on the outside.
When I put the beads on my tray a funny thing happened.  This design just came to life on the first try.  I hope you will enjoy this little tutorial.

Materials needed:
18-20 Button beads
36-40 BiBo beads
Less than 5 grams of 11/0 seed beads
Clasp of your choice

On a comfortable length of fireline pick up 8 seed beads.  Go through all the beads two times and exit the next 2 seed beads.
Pick up a BiBo bead and 1 seed bead.  Go through the next hole of the Bibo bead.
Pick up 1 Button bead, BiBo bead and a seed bead.  Go through the next hole of the BiBo, Button and the starting hole of the first BiBo.
Go through the seed bead and the next hole of the BiBo, pick up 2 seed beads and go through the opposite BiBo.
Go through the seed bead, next hole of the BiBo and through the 2 seed beads in the starting ring.
Weave through to exit the 2 seed beads opposite the starting ring.
Pick up 6 seed beads and go through all the beads again.
Exit the top two seed beads and repeat all the steps for your desired length.  Be sure to add 6 beads at the end of your work for your clasp loop.

Be sure to let me know what you think and if you give it a try.  I would be thrilled to see your colorways.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

When Making Stuff is a Real Pain in the Neck

As jewelry and bead makers, we can spend hours abusing our bodies. I know my neck, shoulders, and the area between my shoulder blades like to scream at me incessantly when I spend any time at all making stuff. And in fact, I've had a chiropractor, physical therapy, and massage treatments. As a result, I have learned several things about treating the muscle soreness that results.

Disclosure: I am not a doctor or physical therapist or anyone who can officially speak with any actual authority. I am just sharing what I've learned and what works for me.

#1 - This is probably the most universal tip, but is also probably universally ignored: Take frequent breaks. Set a timer if you need to. I'm not going to lie. I don't like this tip much because when I am in the moment, and things are going smoothly, the last thing I want to do is break my momentum. You run the risk of losing momentum for the rest of the day.

However, your body will thank and reward you if you take short frequent breaks to do some counteractive stretches. What kind of stretches?

#2 - Do neck stretches. I don't typically roll my head around. I've learned that stretches held for a longer time are more beneficial for me. I hold my head to one side, letting the weight pull itself towards my shoulder. At the same time, I stretch my arms down like I'm trying to touch the floor without bending. Hold for 10-15 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Try other angles.

#3 - Stretch the area between shoulders and chest. Go to a door frame. Place a hand on each side of it. Then take a step forward and lean forward. Don't lean so far that you fall. You are just trying to get a good stretch to open up your chest muscles and counteract all the hunching over you've been doing. Hold the stretch for 10-20 seconds.

#4 - When your muscles are really screaming at you and these stretches aren't enough, you need to bring out the secret weapon. Luckily, I am going to share my secret weapon with all of you. Two tennis balls, a sock that will fit both tennis balls, and a hand towel. That's it. The idea is you are doing a type of self massage (or muscle release) with these tennis balls.

After placing both tennis balls in the sock, you are going to pinpoint an area along your spine (this works on any spot) that is particularly painful then lay down and position the tennis balls so one lays on either side of the spine in the problem area. I lay on the floor to do this, but it can sometimes be pretty intense. So if it's too uncomfortable, do it on a bed or sofa. Just understand that the more cushy the surface you're laying on, the less effective the tennis balls will be because your body weight will push them down into the mattress or cushions.

Lay on the tennis balls in the problem area for 2-5 minutes. You will actually feel the muscle release and relax.

When the tennis balls won't stay put (due to the curvature of the spine-especially the neck), roll the hand towel and use it as a stopper for the tennis balls rolling out of place.

#5 - Additionally, you can use a rubber ball, slightly deflated, about 4" diameter, and lean against the wall with the rubber ball placed at the problem spot to accomplish the same thing. I personally prefer the tennis balls, but this works too.

#6 - If you want to spend money, there are several products made that are quite effective. I have something similar to this therapy roll.

There are probably 100's of videos on how to use them, but I use mine by placing it under my back in the shoulder blade area, hands under my head like I'm going to do a sit-up, then just roll forward and back using my legs. It's amazing! I will also lay on it with it running along my spine, the base of my skull resting on the edge, then hold my arms straight out. It's a great stretch for the chest, spine, and targets tight muscles in my neck in a similar manner to the tennis balls.

Another tool I've been coveting, especially to help with the tough to reach shoulder tightness, is a therapy cane like the Back Buddy (which helps to target several areas).

These are just a few of the several (100's? 1000's?) exercises that help make your neck and back happier to comply with the hours you spend hunched over your bench.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Bead Fest 2015 - our views

Bead Fest 2015 was spectacular. Beads, buddies, buying, bartering with artist friends in trade.

The day after.
Those of us that were there are a bit hungover from the bead bounty, and sit fondling our loot, planning, imagining... But let me take a few minutes to regale you with images from the weekend! Thanks to all my AJE team members for the pictures, this post is a team effort! 

Sue sends in the group shot from our annual AJE dinner! Sorry that Francesca had to miss due to a snafu with class kits... 

Jenny:  1. the view from the "inside"... 2. Meeting AJE reader and friends Melissa Trudger in from Australia! 3. Vintage treasures from my neighbor Echo Artworks. 4. Harry Boardman - artist and sometimes "bead slave" to Heather at HMB  Studio. 

Diana: 1-2. Class sample from chainmaille daisy class- and classmate Sue. 3. Finally meeting Francesca! 4. Photo ops with friends and AJE readers!

Francesca: 1. First class, all serious. 2. Last class, true colors. 3. Rockhounds and metal smiths - R. Salley, Francesca, G. Wilson. 4-5. students at work! 

Linda: 1. Anne of Gardanne Beads. 2. Michelle McCarthy and her ceramic beads. Linda and me at my booth.

Lesley: 1-2. Assisting Cooky Schock in the Braided wire bangle class, Sandi V. at work. 3. The delightful Mak of Maku Raku. 4. Wire bangles from Cooky's class. 5. Maku Raku treasures. 6. Cooky at work. 

Saturday night's all right for bead friends! 

Now I'm off to unload the car, and look at my loot! Have a great Monday...

Friday, August 21, 2015

Meet the Artist - Hannah Willow

Hannah Willow is a mixed media artist who creates beautiful jewellery, paintings, icons and oracles and has long been an inspiration to and admired by a number of the AJE team members. She lives in Wiltshire, England, next door to an ancient apple orchard with her family and a small menagerie and is inspired by the ancient landscape and history that surrounds her.

I wanted to share one of my favourite designers work with you but rather than just give you my perspective I asked Hannah if she would be willing to answer a few questions and share a little about herself and was delighted when she agreed - especially as it turns out that we trod similar paths escaping from corporate to creative lives. I hope you enjoy this little insight into Hannah's creative life as much as I did...
How/when did you first get started with your art/creative work…Do you have formal art training?
I've always been creative, even as a very small child drawing and making things for my parents and at school. My father still gets things out occasionally to show me. I always wanted to study art and go on to do my degree but after completing my foundation in art, my circumstances changed and I was no longer able to carry on studying. After that I spent twenty years working in a corporate environment getting more and more unhappy until finally I made the break and changed direction. I spent some time with a silversmith about twelve years ago, learning the absolute basics and everything from there I've learnt by trial and error. 


What is your greatest inspiration…do you ever suffer from creative droughts and if so how do you deal with it to stay inspired?
My greatest inspiration is nature, our land, our animals and birds and the connection to them that we seem to have lost in the last century. There are so many stories out there, and in history, that are elusive and ethereal and I like to try to imagine what some of those might have been. Working in two mediums means that if I suffer from a creative drought in one, I can usually swap over to the other medium and carry on working. A lot of the jewellery making is 'process' and although frustrating when I'm feeling creative and inspired, it can be useful when I'm in a slump as it means I can carry on working and keep the thread going until ideas start to to return. 

How/when did your interest in folklore, myth and legend begin? Do you have a favourite myth or legend?
I've always had a fascination for myth and folklore, the way history and ideas are passed down and change through the years. I often wonder about the origins of folklore stories, how far back they go and what the root of the story was. My favourite stories depend on what I'm inspired by at the time, but currently I'm working with the Selkie stories from around the UK, stories of seals who come ashore, take off their skins and live as humans for a while before disappearing back to the sea again one day.  

Do you have a particular animal you would consider to be your totem?
There are a few animals who speak to me and these are the ones shown most often in my work. Obviously Hare, who are abundant in the land where I live and who I see everyday as I walk my dog. They often streak across the field ahead of me as they see us coming! There is a lot of folklore surrounding hares and of witches shape-shifting into hares. I have a fascination with the idea that animals could have the ability to turn themselves to humans and back again. 

What are you favourite mediums/materials to work with…do you have a favourite or unusual tool?
My favourite mediums are silver and gemstone, and in recent months I've started to work with carving amber and bone, as well as scrimshaw. Amber is a very ancient stone, deeply connected to the forest and it holds for me the memories of the past and woodland stories. As for tools, I have all the usual silver working tools, probably the most unusual tool I use are toothpicks, they are useful for everything!  


As an artist working with related themes in both jewellery and illustrative mediums...How do you balance time…does one take precedence…does one inspire the other or do they cross-pollinate. Any advice for anyone trying to work across mediums?
Although I work in both jewellery and illustrative mediums, my work really is one body of ideas, just expressed in differing ways. My ideas cross pollinate each medium and often you will see similar inspiration and images arising across my work. The jewellery is more restrictive in how I can express the idea, and so can be more challenging to get across what I'm trying to say, however the freedom of the art can in itself make it more difficult than the jewellery as I have no restrictions on what I can do to achieve what I want and this can sometimes be overwhelming. I do struggle to work both together and so usually work in large chunks of time purely on one or the other. At the moment the jewellery tends to taken precedence, but this balance may well change in the future, especially as my eyesight is getting worse and it's harder to see making jewellery. 

What short piece of advice would you give someone trying to find their creative voice and push forward?
Do it. Don't wait for the 'right time' or having enough in the bank, or for others to ask for your work. Just get on and do it, put it up for sale, promote your work, get it out there on a website, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and go for it. Have a vision of who you are, what your creativity represents, and push that forward. Be inspired by others, look at how they work, what they produce (and how they market and price their work) but most importantly, don't copy. Have your own voice, your own style and spend as much time as you can on it. If you want to be an artist and earn a living by it, it will become all encompassing and take over your life completely, 24/7, there's no other way. Evening classes can be an amazing starting block to kick start creativity and give you new skills, several artists I know started their whole artistic and creative career by attending an evening class. 

Practically, having your own space set aside for your work is essential. Having to clear away your work every time you finish in order for the space to be used for something else will not work. It kills creativity and steals time. You will find that if you have your own space, it will be your sanctuary and even ten minutes stolen out there before breakfast will be productive and creative. 

What has been you greatest creative achievement to date?
My greatest achievement has been keeping myself alive and fed through my own work for over ten years. My ex husband told me I'd never make it as an artist, so having left my old life and done what I always should have done, answering that life long call, become an artist, been successful, paid my bills, fed myself (and my cats!) and produced a large body of work is my greatest achievement and satisfaction. I'd say to anyone who feels that call, do it, be brave. Don't go to the graveyard with 'what if's'.

Huge thanks to Hannah for sharing so openly with us. If you are in the UK and would like to see some of Hannah's work at first hand she is currently exhibiting at two locations (click on images for more info):

The Name of the Hare
 Alternatively you can find out more at the following links: