Sunday, November 20, 2011

Introducing more creations by Bette

I have created a decent body of work -- about 60 pieces including necklaces and earrings.  Now, if I can just get my work out there and find a good way to showcase it.  I'm posting some of the pieces here , just in case someone is interested in purchasing.  Simply email me at if interested.

In one of my earlier posts, I mentioned that Rio Grande is a great site for jewelry making supplies, including more tools that you could ever imagine.  I discovered that Rio Grande also accepts scrap metal and will give either cash (75%) or a credit (85%).  So I traded in all of my sterling silver flatware (a must-have when I was married many, many years ago), which had languished unused in a drawer all these years.  Woo hoo, I hit the mother lode!  $400 credit, which I used to purchase a Swanstrom disc cutter and accessories.  Essentially this tool will enable me to make metal circles and "washers", which I can turn into all sorts of interesting creations.  Also, it will enable me to make rings, which thus far, I have not been inclined to do using wire.

So this rainy Sunday afternoon, it's just me and my disc cutter.  So much fun.
Silver choker with organic
soldered silver circles
African Wedding Beads
on hand forged silver circles

Hand forged organic silver circles and disc
Sea glass off center focal on soldered circles
Aquamarine briolettes in silver circles
Hand forged necklace with organic circles, discs and granite beads

Aquamarine and peridot briolettes in gold filled circles

Silver cubes on circles with freshwater pearls

Hand forged organic circles of fine silver

Red Chinese crystals and garnets, plus silver circles and various "dangles"
Very pretty

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I'm back!

I have neglected this blog for many months. But not without good cause. On October 9, 2011 I debuted my work at the Italian Festa in Little Italy. Putting together my booth was so much fun. While my sales were not spectacular, I received so much positive feedback about my work. I am inspired to keep trying new designs and learning new skills.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Playing with Fire!

Now for the economic news: : 18g wire is now up to nearly $12 a foot! This means that I seriously have to rein in my wire habit. I will, I will...right after I buy a few more feet.

The soldering class that I took on Saturday opened up a whole new way of working with wire. It was an excellent class, one of the many offered by The Bouncing Bead, a great little bead shop in La Mesa. (link) The instructor Christy clearly has a passion for working with metals, and her instruction was thorough and clear. It certainly helped that I was one of only two students in the four-hour class.

We worked with Blazer micro torches and tiny chinks of soft silver solder. I have to tell you, something magical happens when you apply the flame and watch the silver begin to glow orangey pink and then suddenly that tiny chink turns liquid and literally melts into the piece that you are soldering.

Monday, March 21, 2011

New Work!

I am so excited that I am learning so much. I took a soldering class on Saturday and it has opened up a whole new process for me to explore. See photo. More tomorrow.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Uh, oh! I think I have a problem.

There oughta' be an organization for jewelry makers, similar to Alcoholics Anonymous called "Bead Addicts Anonymous" (B.A.A.!). The logo would be a sheep.

If other jewelry makers are anything like me, we can't go anywhere near a bead shop without spending bundles of money. When I initially started making jewelry, beads were my downfall, as referenced in earlier posts. But as my skills have developed, my addiction has changed. My latest drug of choice is wire...particularly heavier gauge sterling and gold filled wire (14, 16 and 18 g). I have learned to craft this heavier wire into round spirals, square Greek spirals, hoops and swirls, which can be used in earrings, as a focal piece for a necklace or bracelet, or even as links in necklaces or bracelets.

Working with this heavier wire is so rewarding because it is very sturdy, and bending it into shape takes some skill and precision, but the results can be stunning. Unfortunately, it is very expensive (the last 18g SS wire I purchased was $6.70 a foot), and the price of precious metals has gone through the roof recently. But I can't stop buying wire. When I touch that lovely, smooth, promising surface, I can just feel it oozing potential. I'm a goner....sort of like a lamb being led to slaughter.

That's where B.A.A would be helpful. If I just had a phone number that I could call with a sponsor on the other end who could help me "put down the wire" and "walk away from the bead shop." But alas, my sheep's brain just keeps on buying wire. No sooner do I get it home then I use it up.

Yesterday, I created two pairs of sterling silver Greek spiral earrings, one with a square sterling silver bead in the center of the spiral, topped by amber and garnet beads. The other has at its center a beautiful streaky carnelian flanked by onyx beads. The work is not exactly perfect, but I love the look of the Greek spiral. (See photos.)

Now, I've become a bit obsessed with the Greek spiral shape and see it everywhere...on the iron fence outside my apartment, on the awning of the nearby Greek restaurant and adorning a paper cup. Uh oh, I think I might have a problem.

Today, one of my dang dogs stepped in my bead box scattering beads everywhere (as you can see in the photo on the right above). What a mess! So I shut the door on my studio and went to a yoga class.

Until next time,

Monday, March 7, 2011

It's a dog eat dog world out there...and a new creative passion!

A few days ago I had coffee in Little Italy at a cute little cafe named Influx (which somehow always reminds me of reflux...maybe a retiree thing). My daughter Melissa, her husband Michael and my three precious grandchildren Emmet, Everett and Lilah were with me. Melissa mentioned that the nice little boutique next to the cafe sold some really cool jewelry. So, of course, we abandoned Michael with the kids and ventured in. The shop did indeed have some nice jewelry, mostly large bold statement pieces and some trendy leather wraparound bracelets. The large pieces did not appeal to me, but the earring bangles with semiprecious stones and wrapped beads on twine as necklaces were very interesting.

I had decided that my ultimate goal is to place my pieces on consignment in boutiques and start my own website rather than use Etsy or some of the other online selling sites. Why? Well, personally I think that there is so much good work being done out there and, in general, jewelry makers are so talented. However, they tend to undervalue their work. By mass marketing handmade jewelry, you are competing with thousands (probably hundreds of thousands) of jewelry makers. Did you know that there are more than one million products available under the category of handmade jewelry on Etsy? Any many very nice earrings and even bracelets and necklaces are listed in the $10 to $20 range. So my thinking is if I can find one or two boutiques that would carry some of my pieces, that would give me a way to dip my toe in the water while I continue to build my skills.

Back to the little boutique that Melissa and I were exploring. It just so happened that I was wearing one of the ethnic looking necklaces that I had made recently beaded with ancient granite, coral and a Chinese coin on red silk twine. (See photo above.) I was quite taken with it. So, I asked the boutique owner if she ever considered selling handmade jewelry on consignment. She replied an enthusiastic, Yes!." At that point, she peered at my necklace and launched into an explanation about how her target market preferred big, bold statement pieces and that ethnic was, in effect, yesterday's rubbish. Hmph! I was so insulted. How dare she pooh pooh my latest work. Not to be deterred, I mentioned that I had made a number of small, delicate earrings with precious stones and pearls or crystals. "Oh, no, no no," she said. "I cannot carry small pieces. Shoplifting, you know." So I tucked in my tail, held my head high and sauntered out as if to convey that she had missed the greatest opportunity one could imagine.

What did I do? I went straight home and made a big, bold pair of earrings. (See photo above.) Well, they aren't that bold, but they were bigger than any earrings I had made in the past, large hammered 1-1/2 inch silver hoops (16 gauge) encircling beautiful teardrop Swarovski crystals that reflect a rainbow of colors. I created a wrapped cap for the crystal and a wrapped earwire for it all to hang on. The photo doesn't really do the piece justice. (I need to master close-up photography as well.) The earrings are dangly and fun. And the coolest thing is that I learned three new techniques (using tutorials downloaded from
  • A simple techniques for making large hoops,
  • How to create a wrapped bead cap (in essence a cone that sits on top of the bead), and
  • How to create a lovely wrapped earwire.
So there, you snooty boutique owner!

In one of my previous posts, I mentioned that retirement has sparked an exciting creative streak in me. I am discovering all sorts of creative outlets; although jewelry making is my real passion. My latest endeavor involves creating cyanotype prints on fabric and then making the prints into pillows. (See photos above.) I ordered the silk velvet fabric (treated with a chemical emulsion necessary to create the photographic reaction in sunlight) after being inspired by a similar project in a magazine. (Thank you Martha!)

My first attempts are not bad, if I do say so myself. After cutting the fabric to my desired sizes, I placed ferns, leaves, flowers, etc. on the fabric, anchored it on a piece of foam core with a piece of non-UV treated glass on top and put it out in the bright sunlight for about 10-15 minutes. Then I rinsed the fabric and voila! A beautiful shadow print appeared. The Prussian Blue color is lovely and can be made darker or paler, depending on the exposure. I backed the pillows with a soft camel colored micro fiber suede and used camel colored cord or fringe around the outside.

This project was so much fun and so rewarding that I have ordered two more yards of fabric (more silk velvet and raw silk), as well as the chemicals so that I can treat my own fabric. The fabric and chemicals can be purchased at, where you will also find complete instructions and tips.

That's it for the current outpouring of my creative juices.

Until next time.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Ah ha! I discovered

This is a great site for jewelry makers: It offers hundreds of tutorials, many of them free. They are provided by jewelry makers in PDF format and the vast majority are dedicated to projects; although some are "how to's" for various techniques. I spent $14 and received downloads for 13 tutorials. A couple are for techniques that I have been dying to learn, such as the Greek square wire spiral, but could not find anywhere else.

I also discovered another great bead shop, the Bouncing Bead, in La Mesa, CA. It has great vibes and some interesting things that I haven't seen elsewhere, particularly a nice artsy selection of lampwork beads. I have now visited approximately half a dozen bead shops and found that each one has a completely different character, feel and inventory. For example:

The Shepherdess -- In Old Town, this is one of the oldest bead shops around. It's tiny and shares space with yarn and knitting supplies. Very narrow selection, but occasionally some really interesting beads. Some vintage beads that you won't find anywhere else. The Shepherdess also offers classes. I took a beginning wire wrapping class there, and it provided me with a good introduction to the basics.

Lost Cities Beads -- In an earlier post, I described this as the mega-mart of beads. Lost Cities is also in Old Town, in fact right next door to The Shepherdess, which makes for a fun shopping trip. While Lost Cities has a huge inventory, in no way does this shop sacrifice quality for quantity. Huge selection of Swarovski crystal and always getting in new ones. Have any type, size and shape of semiprecious stone you could wish for. Great vintage and antique pieces, including ancient granite beads from 1200 BC, antique coral from Afghanistan and ancient Chinese coins with a beautiful turquoise patina. Nice inventory of wire and findings all in precious metals. (I don't believe they carry base metals at all.) Wonderful selection of small gems. Lost Cities does not offer classes, but their staff is very knowledgeable and helpful.

Yone -- Located in San Francisco's North Beach area, this is the most interesting and quirky bead shop that I have ever visited; although I have only been there once. It is a tiny place, and beads are everywhere, hanging from the walls and ceiling, organized in trays under and on the counters, and stacked wherever there is an open spot. The proprietor is an elderly gentleman with years and years of experience. He can tell you anything that you want to know about beads. While there, I purchased some fascinating black flat triangular beads with pink striation as well as red translucent flat round glass beads that are stamped with gold moon and stars, opaque bright yellow glass lemons and beautiful ancient painted granite beads. I can't wait to go back. I used the triangular beads to make an unusual necklace with small black and clear glass beads (see photo above).

I have signed up for a five hour soldering class at the Bouncing Bead. Rather than commit to an expensive series of classes at a local college or the Art Institute, I have decided to take individual classes and use online tutorials to learn. I think this approach better suits my personality and gives me a chance to practice as much as I need until I master techniques.

Have also included above some more photos of the tiny little sparkly earrings that I have been making.

Until next time,