We’re moving!

The boxes are all packed, and the new house is ready! ElephantBeads Inspire Blog will be moving to a new blog-space within the next few days. You may notice a new design, but the content will remain pretty much the same.  Those of us who are following us don’t need to do anything – you’ll still get updates. If you’re not already following, come on over to the new place and check us out there. Free to let us know how you like the new house!

— The Management (aka Molly)

ttronslien-

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Meandering as an art form

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I want to recommend artistic creation as a way to change your life rhythm and enhance your quality time with anyone who interacts at a different pace than you.

The rings pictured here were all created as I sat patiently with someone I love who suffers with Parkinson’s Disease and Lewy Body Dementia (LBD). For my loved one movement is very slow… and self-expression even slower. Frequently the complete thought never makes it into the world. Lots of partial thoughts, and lots of guessing: “was this what you were trying to say?” Frequently the guesses are wrong. So frustrating for both of us.

It is tempting to want to rush him through things, or help him with his movements or his thoughts in order to reach the goal more quickly. Generally speaking, I think this is a very bad idea. During this visit I learned to quietly allow him to go at his own pace and do most things himself, as I read his body language to determine when he needed or wanted some assistance.

One of my best strategies for living comfortably within his life rhythm during this visit was bead weaving. It would go something like this:

– Pick up a bead, skip a bead, thread the needle through a bead and pull the string through…

– “So, did you ever live on a farm?”

– …feel the bead click into place. Pick up a bead, skip a bead, thread the needle through a bead…

– “Well, in Wyoming….. we lived near farms.”

– Pull the thread through until the bead clicks into place, pick up a bead…

– “So there were farms near where you lived as a kid in Wyoming?”

– Skip a bead, thread the needle through a bead…

– “Yes, that’s right. The people were….  like those three little girls….”

– Pull the thread through until the bead clicks into place… Pick up a bead…

– “You mean the farmers were Korean, like the little girls from your old neighborhood?”

– Skip a bead, thread the needle through a bead, pull the thread through…

– “Yes, they were Korean.” (grateful look and a nod – glad I was able to make the connection.) “After the war…. ”

– …feel the bead click into place, turn the beadwork to begin the next row, pick up a bead…

– “They were gone.”

– “You mean their land was taken from them, like the Japanese who were put in the internment camps?”

– Skip a bead, thread the needle through a bead…

– “Yes, it was a terrible thing.”

– Pull the thread through…

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Through conversations like this, I have learned a few things about my loved one that I never knew before, and I’m not sure I would have been able to carry on the conversation as effectively if I were trying to “drive toward” some knowledge, or had a goal in mind. I was simply meandering with him, starting with a random question, and trusting that it would take us somewhere… much like a thread weaves its way through the beads, eventually creating a fabric that can be shaped to form something useful. I’m still not sure I have the facts of the story entirely correct. His memory might have been hazy – perhaps his long-ago neighbors were actually Japanese; it would match American history a bit better – but what matters is the quality of the moment we shared, when he recalled his feeling of sadness for neighbors who were lost.

Nature’s color palettes – Arizona inspiration

I have lived in Arizona (on again off again) for several decades, and every year I see my environment grow richer with color. Of course it is not my environment but my eye that is growing richer. I use natural palettes in designing my jewelry – and have collected a visual scrapbook in Pinterest to draw upon.

This photo essay about a journey through Northern Arizona in the vicinity of Page and the Glen Canyon Dam brings you the rich palette of my home state.

DIY: Step-by-Step Beaded Metalwork Bookmark

I am going to walk you through the steps I take to make one of my signature metalwork beaded bookmarks. The bookmark I created here is currently for sale in my ElephantBeads shop on Etsy, along with several others in different colors.

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1. The supplies you will need are pictured here:

  • Oxidized copper wire in two gauges: 16g dead soft, and 24g half hard
  • Around 100 seed beads – any color
  • Larger complementary ornamental beads – 1-3

2. The tools you will need are:

  • Needle nose pliers
  • Side-cut pliers
  • Sand paper or nail file – both fine and rough
  • Chasing hammer and bench block

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3. Cut the heavy gauge copper wire to around a 19 inch length. Sand the end with the rough sand paper to make it smooth.

4. Using your needle nose pliers, make a 2 or 3 loop spiral with the wire, and then gently shape the first side of the handle of the bookmark using your fingers.

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5. Now, using a marker or similar-sized round object, create the lower curve of the bookmark by wrapping the wire around the marker. Work slowly to ensure the curve is smooth. Continue to work the curve upward with your fingers until the second side of the handle meets the first side.

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6. Using either your fingers or another round object, shape the top curve of the bookmark.  Work gently to create a smooth curve.

7. Finally, cut the end of the wire, allowing an extra inch for your final loop. Sand the end of the wire with your rough sand paper until it feels smooth to your fingers.

8. Using your needle-nose pliers, curl the tip of the wire outward and upward to create a complete loop. You will attach the decorative wire-wrapped bead(s) to this loop in your final step.

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8. You are now ready to hammer the metal. This will create a work-hardened finished product, and will also give the bookmark a more finished look. Using your chasing hammer, firmly pound away. It helps to flip the bookmark after every 10 blows or so, to keep it from curving in one direction.

Spend a little extra time on the curves of the bookmark, as this will give them added strength. You can play around with texturing, or periodically hit the metal with the side of the hammer to give it a more weathered, rustic look.

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9. It is now time to begin wire-wrapping. Cut your lighter gauge wire as indicated.

Getting the wrap started is the hardest part. To make it easier, bend about 1/4 inch of the wire at a right angle, hold that bit firmly in place between the two sides of the bookmark handle, and begin wrapping firm loops that will hold the tip in place and secure the bookmark handle.

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10. Continue wrapping until you are ready to add the first bead. Add a single bead, then wrap the wire around one side of the handle. Then add two more beads, and cross the wire over and wrap again. On the third row, wrap the wire twice around the bookmark handle. Continue in this manner, adding more beads in each row, until you reach the base of the bookmark handle.

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11. You are now ready to finish the handle of the bookmark. Wrap the end of the wire multiple times around the base of the handle. I like to wrap it completely over until it covers the entire base of the handle. You are now ready to lightly sand the bookmark with the fine nail file until the right amount of copper shines through the oxidation.

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12. Now all you need to do is create your embellishment and attach it to the bookmark! Using your needle nose pliers, do a simple wire wrap using a head pin, and attach your beads to the finished loop of the bookmark. And voila! You have made yourself a beaded, metalworked bookmark.

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Giddy about my latest creation

I admit that I’m probably a little over the top about this latest listing in my shop. It all started when I spilled my entire container of gemstone beads on the shag carpet last night. Halfway through the painstaking process of picking them up and sorting them out, I realized I was getting inspired. I have a really gorgeous collection! But honestly, I’ve been hoarding them. Rarely do I feel brave enough to pull out my highest-end materials. Strand costs $48? Yikes! Better save that for the really killer idea when it hits me.

But… like people who hoard good wine, saving it for the perfect occasion, I realized there are some occasions that may not be perfect, but they could be made a whole lot better by enjoying some of the good stuff!

So that’s what happened last night, and when I woke up this morning I decided it was time to look at my special stashes and make something amazing. Two elements presented themselves to me: A nice little set of hand-formed and painted ceramic beads in southwestern colors, and one of the two $18 Shibuichi bird toggles I splurged on a couple of months back, made by Green Girl Studios.

These two elements spoke to each other and to me. They asked for oxidized copper as a complement to their beauty, and sky blue African trade beads as spacers. When I was uncertain whether to aim the bird down toward the desert garden of beads, or up into the sky, I let the bird decide. So down she swoops!

So now I’m giddy. This one will be hard to part with – but I’m moving on now, back into the studio to see what other treasures I can pull out of hiding!