Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Galaxy of Blues: Coloring on the Blue Galaxy Swirl beads

Each of the memorial beads pictured in this post is a Blue Galaxy Swirl, made by me, Christine Hansen...but as you can see, each bead is totally unique, both in design and coloring. As the Blue Galaxy Swirl is one of the most popular of my memorial bead designs, I thought I'd share a little bit about what makes these beads so special.
I begin each Blue Galaxy Swirl 1.0 bead (more about that later) with a base of black glass, which is necessary for the color of the blue to "pop." Without the black background, there is nothing for the "blue" glass to show up against. The "blue" that I use isn't really a blue glass at all. Instead, it's a very expensive ($80/lb. and well worth every penny!) reduction glass from Double Helix Glassworks...and it's PINK!!!

This picture is of one of the Double Helix glass rods that I use to make the Blue Galaxy Swirl beads - very DEFINITELY pink glass, no? The soft glass rods I use to make memorial beads with are all about the diameter of a pencil, and start out about a foot long.

This is the same glass, but in shard form - which means I make a bubble of the pink glass, and blow it out, let it cool, and then break it into pieces, which are called "shards." The piece on the left shows a really shiny patch on the surface - that is the metals in the color coming to the surface of the glass, and is part of what makes the magic of the blue color on the Galaxy beads.
I *don't* make the Blue Galaxy Swirl beads with shards, though. I use stringers instead. Here's a picture of a few of the stringers I'll use to make my next Blue Galaxy beads, along with the original rod I pulled them from. I'd say the stringers are about 1mm in diameter or so.
The pale aqua blue on the bottom is the glass I use for encasing the Blue Galaxy Swirl beads. I use the pale aqua *instead* of clear, because the pale aqua reacts less with the metals in the Double Helix reduction glass...crazy, but true! (I'm very grateful to fellow lampwork bead artist Jacqueline Parks for that pro tip!)

The coloring on these beads depends upon so many variables, that it's almost impossible to get the same result every time I make one of these beads - which is a huge part of the appeal for me - I have a pretty good idea of what the finished bead will look like, but I won't know for sure until it comes out of the kiln.
The blues in these beads are influenced by flame chemistry (the ratio of propane and oxygen in the flame while I'm working on the bead), heat (whether I work the bead "cool" or "hot"), depth of encasing (a thicker encasing "insulates" the color - which can work for or against me, depending upon the situation), and length of working time (shorter working time = better blues). Planetary alignment and moon phase also appear to contribute to the variations in these beads, but those elements are out of my control.

Because of the infinite variations possible in the final beads of this design, I tell my clients that I cannot guarantee a particular shade of blue, or how much blue will be on the bead. At some point, control over the process must be given up and the glass must be allowed to do its own thing. Having said that, I do try to gauge how much "color" will be in the bead before I put it in the kiln, and if it looks or feels a little skimpy to me (working the reduction glass too hot or for too long can cause the color to vanish), then I just make another bead while I've got everything ready. My clients are typically happy with this approach - they wind up with a gorgeous memorial bead, plus an extra that didn't quite meet my standards.

I've recently developed a 2.0 version of this bead - using a transparent cobalt core for the base puts a little more "blue" into the bead. The following collage shows how these beads turned out. The client I made them for is absolutely thrilled. What's your opinion of the 1.0 (black base) versus the 2.0 (cobalt blue base)?
I've been playing around with other colors for the base as well - transparent very dark green and transparent royal deep purple (but not together in the same bead!!!). I'll post pics of those once I've got lovely samples made up.

Thanks for reading and commenting! You can find my memorial art glass at my website,

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Jeannie K. Dukic's Echo Creative Club

I'm delighted to be the June artist for Jeannie K. Dukic's Echo Creative Club for 2014!

Cherry blossoms are one of my favorite design motifs, so I couldn't resist selecting them when offered a choice of Jeannie's beads.

Jeannie's polymer clay art beads are a labor of love. Each one is an original design, and she meticulously hand-paints many of the designs, especially the florals. (Check out the Gin Blossom and Acanthus designs for more luscious eye candy!) The Cherry Blossom beads are available in two sizes - 1-1/4" focals and 3/4" earring pairs, and you can find her main page of polymer clay art beads here. Jeannie also makes a wide range of fantastic finished pieces - bracelets, earrings, necklaces, and more, which you can find here.

Following are pictures of what I created with two of Jeannie's Cherry Blossom art beads. I *totally* forgot to take pictures of Jeannie's beads before I started working with them , but I *did* take fairly decent close-ups so you can see the great detail on these beads.

First up is the bracelet, inspired by Linda Hanes' cuff bracelet in (February 2014 issue). I took Linda's idea and made a few tweaks of my own (which I can *never* resist doing, whether it's a recipe or a jewelry design. I'm deviant, I know.).

The bracelet is based on a pre-made leather cuff, wrapped in recycled sari ribbon. The cuff came with a few holes in it, but I added *lots* more so I could affix the focal and embellishments. I was lazy and didn't want to dig out the Dremel, so I used a center punch on each hole a few times, then used an old needle file to ream out the hole. The beauty of the lazy strategy is that you can make each hole a different size to accommodate different elements, yet you don't need to switch out drill bits. Lazy *and* clever, no?

I added two of my lampwork spacer beads (the swirly pink and green one on the dangle, and the deep pink one on the right side of the focal), a short length of brass wire, assorted Czech seed beads and crystals, and one of my etched brass dragonfly charms.

I love this color combo, even though the coral in Jeannie's focal was challenging for me to match. I selected colors that were close (and added a pop of orange to brighten things up a little), and used the green to provide a rich background.

It's really comfortable and I love the way Jeannie's focal really stands out against the sage green.

For the second piece, a necklace, I wanted to keep the design simple to highlight the cherry blossom.

To me, this necklace has a vintage feel, with the drape of the smaller chain.

When designing a piece, one element I always love to include (whenever appropriate), is something that moves.

The jump rings with seed bead dangles carry the color of the focal throughout the piece and add that little hint of movement. I must confess though, putting seed beads on jump rings is a fiddly business, and one that sorely tests my patience. (Why oh why do I do this to myself?!???)

The above picture shows the terrific care and detail Jeannie puts into creating her beads.

Jeannie, thank you for including me in the 2014 Echo Creative Club! It has been a delight and an honor to work with your lovely art beads!

Friday, May 09, 2014

Bead Soup Blog Party: Dragonfly's Pond

My partner ChristieMurrow of Charis Designs Jewelry sent such a generous bead soup, it was a little difficult to know where to begin. I LOVE the focal and clasp, both from Havana Beads, one of Christie’s favorite local artists, and I knew I wanted to be able to see both on the front of the finished piece.

Christie’s soup included stone beads in pale pinks, which set off the smoky blue of the focal in an unexpected way, while the reddish brown tones of the accent beads pick up the rusty color in the toggle clasp’s glaze. Christie also included an assortment of silver beads, ivory pearls, and a couple of fun and funky blue beads.

From my stash came a few indicolite Swarovski crystals, short lengths of chain rescued from the thrift shop, and a handful of my own lampwork beads. It was *really* tricky to match the blue of the pendant, so I finally gave up on an exact match and just went with pretty blue beads in hues that complement the focal and bring to mind the dragonfly’s pond. I used a few of Christie’s silver beads, but left out the ivory pearls.
Figuring out a way to showcase the focal was the biggest part of the challenge for me. I don’t work often with pendants of this style (substantial, with a front-to-back hole), and was stumped for how to present it. Leafing through bead mags gave me a few ideas and I wound up making a bead link with one of my lampwork beads. Tiny dangles add movement to the focal and tie in colors from elsewhere in the piece.

From there, it was a matter of making a few more bead links, stringing some beads, and connecting the sections with chain, with careful attention paid to the overall length – with such a long pendant, I wanted to keep the necklace on the short side.
I’m really pleased with how the necklace came out. It was a joy to work with such a fresh-to-me color scheme, and I had a blast working with the lovely ceramic focal and clasp.

Christie, thank you for sending such a tasty bead soup, and Lori, as ever, thank you for being our fearless leader!

See what my partner Christie Murrow did with the beads I sent her:

To check out all of the other wonderful Bead Soup results, click on this link:

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Ginger Tea recipe

Ginger is one of my favorite flavors - I love its warm spicy flavor no matter where I find it - as a kid, I loved gingerbread, ginger ale, and ginger candy. As I got older, I discovered new ways to enjoy this fantastic rhizome - Thai dishes, Japanese stir-fries, and Moosewood Restaurant's yummy ginger-miso dressing (I'll post that recipe too, I promise).

Beyond ginger's obvious culinary delights, ginger is also a fantastic traditional remedy. I've been drinking lots of it lately, and have found that it helps with inflammatory stuff (like the arthritis in my back and those naughty monthly cramps), as well as helping to clear chest congestion when we caught that nasty cold a while back.

Ginger's use as a traditional medicinal goes back more than 2,000 years, so there is a wealth of information on its uses. I encourage you to do your own research and decide if ginger is right for you.

For starters, here's what WebMD has to say about ginger.

One thing you need to know: If you have a chronic health condition or if you're on prescription medications, DO check with your healthcare professional before ingesting ginger in quantities greater than that used for culinary purposes. Ginger interacts with many different medications, and it acts as a blood thinner too.

Following is how I prepare my ginger tea:

  • You'll need about 9 ounces of fresh ginger for 3 quarts of water, or 13 ounces of ginger for 4 quarts of water.
  • Refrigerate what you don't drink immediately, and consume within 24 hours of making.
  • For best results, ginger tea should be drunk warm.
  • Re-heat carefully - do not allow ginger tea to boil.

Peel ginger.

Cut into chunks.

Pulse-chop in food processor into tiny bits. You can also chop it with a knife if you don't have a food processor. The idea is to get it as finely chopped as possible.

Close-up of afore-mentioned tiny bits.

This is a 3-quart pot, filled with water and brought to a boil. Add chopped ginger and re-heat, just shy of a boil.

Turn heat off. Cover ginger tea. Allow to steep 2-3 hours.

Pour ginger tea through strainer.

Press chopped ginger with back of spoon to extract all the yummy gingery goodness.

I like to add a generous splash of almond milk to my ginger tea - the ginger tea is very strong and spicy, so the almond milk helps tone it down a bit and make it more of a "special treat" drink than a medicinal sort of thing.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Soup's On! (the big reveal!)

Please visit my partner Christine's blog, Sweet Girl Design, to see what she created with the Bead Soup I sent her!

Here they are - my finished Bead Soup pieces - at least the ones I have finished so far! I've got another *this* close to done and beads pulled for yet another piece featuring Christine's lovely alternate focal. I'm still reeling from how much beady goodness she sent to me - it was such a lush, generous package filled with all kinds of gorgeous!

Note: I'm having a really difficult time loading pictures to the blog tonight - tried to load pics of the soup Christine sent, but it's just not cooperating. You can click here to see what she sent me.

When I first opened Christine's box of Bead Soup, I really wanted to turn some of the briolettes into a pair of dangly sparkly earrings - but wound up shelving that idea, because the holes on the labradorite and sodalite briolettes were just sooooo teeny tiny. It was impossible to get sterling wire of a sturdy-enough gauge through those holes, so I just went with super fine beading wire and made strung pieces instead - and I'm thrilled with the results!

Christine's handmade vintage rhinestone and filigree focal is absolutely stunning, and I really wanted to do it justice. I sketched out 4-5 different ways to work with it - I wanted to try it with everything, but in the end, I had to pick one and roll with it!

I wound up taking inspiration from the vintage Czech enamel necklaces pictured in one of my favorite eye candy jewelry idea books, Fabulous Fakes, by Carole Tanenbaum. The necklaces each feature a lovely large embellished filigree pendant, accented with dangly bits, suspended from lovely beaded strands. I thought about making it symmetrical like the necklaces in the book, really I did - I laid it out so everything matched, but it was just, well, just *too* symmetrical, and really kind of boring.

I decided to play up the blue and brass tones, so I found some great brass chain at Shipwreck Beads, and dangled Christine's lovely blue rondelles from every third link. On the other side, I used some of my etched handmade lampwork beads in a "brassy" color (transparent light brown) and strung them with a bead soup mix I already had on hand from a prior project. (A while ago, I used this same color scheme on a lanyard, and I really like it - it's elegant and stylish without being fussy.)
The grey-blue of the sparkly briolette crystals Christine included in the alternate focal package were perfect for the dangles from the filigree pendant. I used 22 gauge annealed steel wire to wire them to the dainty brass chain (also found at Shipwreck Beads). Let me just state for the record that I LOVE briolette/drop shape beads, but goodness gracious, they sure are nerve-wracking to wire-wrap, aren't they? Christine's lovely filigree toggle clasp finishes off this necklace perfectly.

This next piece is actually the first one I finished - the result of one of the many sketches I made based on Christine's soup.

This one features the afore-mentioned lovely labradorite briolettes with tiny holes, as well as some smaller blue rondelles that Christine sent, the brass rounds and dyed impression jasper, and one of my own handmade lampwork Nebula Series beads in a dark oceany blue. I used one of the "woven" round links Christine sent as part of the clasp, with a brass S-hook for the other part - had to bend the S-hook though, so it would lay properly.

The final pieces are a set of three stacking bracelets, all based on the color scheme that  Christine sent, and incorporating as many of her beads as I could manage.

The first bracelet features one of the four vintage chandelier crystals that Christine sent me, which I combined with two of my etched lampwork beads, brass chain, some milky white faceted Czech beads and some of Christine's brass rounds. The second bracelet is very simple, but I love it: Christine's bright blue freshwater pearls and more of those yummy blue faceted rondelles (have I mentioned lately how much I LOVE faceted rondelles? No? Well, I *do* love them!). The third bracelet incorporates mixed media - wire, recycled sari silk fiber, one of my Desert Dreams series lampwork beads, and more of those great milky Czech faceted beads, with some cool brass spacers. I suppose you *could* wear just one bracelet at a time, but so far, I've worn all three bracelets together - I think they are happiest that way.

Christine, thank you SO much for being my partner for this Bead Soup Blog Party - I really appreciate it, and had a wonderful time designing with all the lovely treasures you shared with me! (And I'm pretty stoked that I got a new friend out of it too!)

Lori, thank YOU for hosting this incredible project. This is such a labor of love and life-force, and you handle it with style, class, kindness, and love. You are putting good energy into the world. Thank you!

As soon as I get the other pieces finished, I'll post pics and write-ups for them. In the meantime, you've got plenty more eye candy to check out - here's the link to the rest of the (more than 200) Third Reveal posts. Please visit as many posts as you're able, and do leave comments!