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Tuesday, May 17th

17 May


Vintage glass buttons glued into cupped bezels.

Copper jump rings.

Vintage abalone tiles purchased from Elliot Silverstein way back in the long ago.


Fuschia shirt dress.

That’s all.


Friday, May 13th

14 May

This choker-style necklace is made of vintage mother-of-pearl buckles linked together with copper jump rings and glass beads. I made it in 1997 or ’98 as a sample for shows but I wore it almost constantly for a year.

I also sold a lot of buckle chokers.

That was the year I purchased $22,000 dollars of vintage buckles and buttons from a Elliot Silverstein in Manhattan. He was closing a hundred-year-old family business to retire. His pearl buttons had been made in factories in New Jersey but plastic buttons and the closing of the NYC garment factories had shut him down too.

I bought boxes and boxes of buckles, pearl infant shirt buttons and the teeniest pearl lingerie buttons from the 1920’s.

The infant shirt buttons came packaged in boxes of 5,000 buttons. Creamy old cardboard stamped on one end with the name and address of the Brooklyn box manufacturer. The other end had very tidy old handwriting “5,000 pearl, 8 ligne”

Sometimes I wish I still had some of those boxes.

(a ligne is 1/40th of an inch and is how buttons are measured. Most men’s dress shirt buttons are 25-30 ligne)


Wednesday, April 20th

20 Apr


This necklace is made of paper beads rolled around a wooden skewer and sealed with Diamond Glaze. The paper is cut from maps my husband and I used on trips to the Pacific Northwest years ago. The large wooden bead has map pages lacquered to the outside as well. The beads are strung on red leather cording with a few very old Bali spacers I got from a bead trader in the early 1990’s. This necklace is one of my absolute favorites; it is meaningful to me and looks good with many things I wear.

I often wear this on trips or when I really want to take a trip but can’t.

Those maps…

Way back when my husband and I would travel very lightly and liked to do a lot of aimless walking/hiking on trips. We headed out to the Olympic Peninsula in a rented mini-van with a bag filled with fruit, dried salmon, wine, chocolate and good bread. We used to rent minivans because way back when you could pop the center bench seat out and flip it around. Fully recline all those seats and it is a twin bed. We drove the first day and filled our eyes with the fog, the trees, the beauty. We parked that evening all alone at a rocky beach and prepared to eat a fabulous dinner of fresh plums, smoked salmon, goat cheese, bread and a bottle of wine. Oops, no bottle opener!

The beach was still amazing.

This picture was taken by my friend Jeana who had to take about 40 pictures until I was happy. It was dusk and we were sitting on a deck with friends, laughing and joking…that evening was a bit like a mini-vacation so I am glad I had the necklace on. Jeana would NEVER take a camping trip without a bottle opener; she’s very prepared and thoughtful.

This tutorial shows you how to make similar beads to the large map-covered bead.

Monday, April 18th

19 Apr


This necklace consists of four strands of fine-gauge copper chain attached to a vintage mother-of-pearl tile with a vintage glass leaf cemented to the tile. The chains are all attached to a copper lobster claw clasp (see it there on the left side of the necklace?) that hooks in the front. This design allows the wearer to choose either an 18″ necklace (as shown) or a 36″ necklace.

I thought I invented this idea.

Really, I did think I invented it. Yeah, now, years later I realize that NOTHING is new. Especially in the world of jewelry.

Back then, I thought I hung the moon. Or more accurately, I was SURE that no one had ever done this. It was MY idea. A convertible necklace! Wahoo! Roll up the limo, I invented the convertible necklace.

Then, a year or so later I picked up a 1930’s Life magazine and was perusing the side-bar ads.

There it was, an ad for a necklace that could be worn ‘long or short as the lady desires.’

Damn. They stole my idea. Well, in reverse, time-machine-using meaning of the word ‘stole’ that is.

Now, older and wiser I know that there is not a new idea. There are just new thinkers who refine the old ideas. Okay, ONCE in a GREAT while there may be an actual new idea but that’s super-duper rare.

Beads around the neck? Been done.

Chain wrapped around the wrist? Check.

Fancy stuff on the earlobes? Yep.

Now this could be thought of as disheartening, but I don’t see it that way at all. I don’t make jewelry to impress YOU or to make you say ‘Wow, she really did something amazing!’ I make jewelry because I enjoy the making process* and I enjoy keeping myself busy with tiny things, sparkly things, shiny little things. It keeps me off the streets and connects me with a primal human urge to decorate myself and others. Plus did I mention the shiny?

The other chief benefit of this mindset is that I am not at all disturbed** by anyone who copycats or get’s inspired by my work. I can’t be. First, because I make a good portion of my living as a craft writer and seller of sparkly, shiny things but also because I don’t get caught up in the idea that I am my ideas.

Let me repeat that; I am not my ideas.

I am me, I have ideas.

My ideas spin off into the world and then perhaps you have them or perhaps someone else has them and changes them and moves them into a different (but not totally new) direction. That’s okay. I’m fine with it.

*Remember, I am the person who can wear a different necklace every day for a year…or at least thinks she can!

**or, more accurately, I am a person who can talk herself down from being disturbed pretty quickly…

Tuesday, April 5th

5 Apr


I have to remember to have my husband take my picture early in the day. Today I forgot and it’s about 10:00 pm and I am tired. I taught a class and did about 1,000 other things already today.

One thing that was good was that I wore this necklace. I love this necklace. It has Imperial Jasper, carnelian discs, vintage 1800’s green amber beads, old cloisonne, coral, wood, mother-of-pearl, you name it. I made this on a trip where I packed a bag with many ‘favorite’ beads that hadn’t been used. I intended to pack a bunch of filler items as well but somehow forgot. Over that weekend I made five go-for-broke necklaces filled with some of my very favorite beads.  All just strung up; I didn’t have chain or anything else to use with the beads. Each necklace was different but they all share some common beads and they actually look good together, in a very Frieda Kahlo way.

I have just decided that this blog will sometimes include layered necklaces (meaning two or more at a time) but that when I do that at least one of the items I wear will be a ‘new’ design. That way I can show you how this looks all stacked up one day.

Right now I’m headed to sleep.

Monday, April 4th

4 Apr


Large, rice-shaped goldstone beads strung with a seven-strand clasp. Not adjustable in length, but then it doesn’t need to be.

I made this necklace several years ago as part of a collection for Bedizen. I envisioned it as being just a bit soap-opera-ish. You know, those dressed-up ladies always wore major jewelry and big clip earrings they took off to talk on the phone. A Chanel suit or at the very least a St. John suit. Heels. Hair that was styled. Yes, I am talking about Susan Lucci. I love that whole look. The absolute level of grooming impresses me for some reason. This wasn’t my look at the time. Even now I’m not exactly dressed-up even when I am dressed-up. I admire a St. John suit but I don’t own any and really, wouldn’t know how to wear it.

When I made this necklace I was doing a bit of work for a department store based in Texas. They were purchasing some multi-strand, sparkly glass bead bracelets and I really thought they’d like this necklace and the other pieces in the collection. There were dramatic earrings made on beading screens (very 1950’s!) and a bracelet that matched this necklace.

The department store didn’t like this necklace.

The length was good. The antique brass clasp was wrong (they wanted brighter gold-tone.) The orangey goldstone didn’t sell. It was a weird color for the trends at the time. Too rusty. I really liked it, though, and was happy to keep the sample. I still have the earrings, too, but if I wear them both together I feel like I need to get a suit and style my hair.

Monday, March 28th

28 Mar

This necklace is made of olive-green Tibetian turquoise, abalone-shell discs, Toho seed beads, wood and bone all strung on #6 knotting silk. I made it many years ago in an afternoon of beading with my younger sister. I started with a big, blown-glass focal but pulled it out and added more stones, wood, seed beads. She watched me put it together and at some point said something like ‘wow, if I made that it would look really bad.’ That’s one of those compliments that you think is maybe not so much of a compliment.

But she IS my sister, so I know what she is saying.

Weird, busy, odd, layered, asymmetrical. Those things all come easily to me.

What’s hard is order. Patterns. Matching.

Making a 16″ strand of graduated pearls would drive me nuts. I don’t know if it would be boredom or just impatience. I would go crazy.

However, hand me a bunch of probably-not-matchy beads and some thread and I’ll string ’em up. I’ll add dangles and maybe a tassel. I can’t help that. Now, in my current profession, that’s pretty good. It’s okay to not be matchy. Or pattern-ish.

There is, however, another side to that coin. I can’t follow recipes. I have trouble assembling items using any kind of written directions. I space out when I’m trying to make a dress from a pattern and start thinking ‘don’t I really want a skirt?’ Because I’m so frenetic it takes me a really long time to learn from my mistakes. I will try and try again but I’m more like a squirrel than a scientist. I don’t carefully adjust one variable at a time and see what happens. I adjust seventeen variables and then throw in a new color of seed bead and see what happens.

Luckily for me, sometimes I like the result.

Thursday, March 17th

17 Mar

This necklace is very old. I think I made it in 1997 or ’98. It consists of two vintage glass mirrored stones wrapped with copper wire around 42″ of olive-green silk ribbon.

Pretty simple.

These were popular and I sold them to boutiques all around the country. The mirror shape varied, as did the ribbon color.

I haven’t worn or even thought about this necklace in years but I used to wear it with a dark brown dress with medieval-ish sleeves and lace-up Victorian boots. I also wrapped beads on copper wire in my hair when I wore this. And added a sparkly choker made with 1920’s mother-of-pearl buckles and coppery rhinestones.

Wow. That was quite an outfit. I wonder if I have a picture…

And I did wear this today, but I forgot to take the picture before I got into my jammies. I wore this with a white gauzy shirt, Shibori-print sweater, dark jeans and very high-heeled coppery snakeskin sandals.

Yes, my feet hurt now.

Tuesday, March 8th

8 Mar

Today’s necklace is complex, layered and asymmetrical. I created it about six years ago. It is strung on Mastex cording, with chain, shell beads, an Elaine Ray charm or two. The head on the lower right-hand side is a Bakelite Cracker Jack charm from the early part of the 20th century. When you pull the dog’s collar it’s eyes bug out and the tongue wags. That carved ivory elephant was given to me by a Chinese bead vendor I used to work with. He spoke next to no English and we communicated mostly through calculations on an HP calculator he kept in his back pocket. One time when I visited him I told him I was pregnant (with my daughter, Cleo, now eight) by pantomiming a baby and a big belly. He laughed and dug out that elephant for me. “Good luck’ he said. Of course, I bought a big, long strand of the elephants but I saved this one for the necklace.

This necklace is an example of an unfinished object. There are long, loose strings of Mastex cording hanging down the back. There is a button and a hook for a proper closure, but I never trimmed the Mastex. I intended to add counterweight strands on the back, but the necklace isn’t really that heavy. Somehow I still can’t bring myself to trim the strands. I don’t know why. They aren’t especially attractive; actually they cause people to say ‘you have a string on your back’ at least once every time I wear the necklace. I should cut the strands or string them with beads to make the counterweights.

I should.

Friday, March 4th

4 Mar

This necklace is 34″ long and contains African green amber, some fiber-wrapped beads from the Phillipines and even a bit of chain. I think I made it around 6 years ago. I was on a trip to NYC for business and I kept seeing all these long necklaces. I hadn’t really worn anything longer than 20″ or so for a while. Of course, I travel with beads so I strung this up in the hotel room one night while watching cable tv. It ended up matching a dress I bought the next day at that huge H&M at 7th & 34th. That store always looks like it was just ravaged by zombies minutes before you entered. I rarely find anything there but the store is so big and full of promise I always try. That day I pulled a swirly, flowery brown dress off a rack and it fit and didn’t seem like it would fall apart the first time I wore it.

I think I wore this necklace for a month straight after I made it. I always wanted a black version but every one I made just seemed wrong.

I still have the dress, too.