Posts tagged: handmade

Embroidery treasures

foxy embroidery and book

foxy embroidery and book

Many years ago I made a blouse entirely by hand, following the example of a similar garment.  I decorated the front panel with an embroidery of a fox with grapes.  The fox was based on a sweet children’s book, The Little Trapper, by Kathryn and Byron Jackson with illustrations by Gustaf Tenggren.  Here is also pictured is a small embroidery of a lion’s face that was rescued from a favorite pair of jeans.

lion and fox

lion and fox

Very fancy embroidery machines could be programmed to do similar work, but that would take half the fun out of it!  Hand embroidery is like painting with a rather limited palette, and making stitches look like fur was a way to add a realistic touch.


Lovely larimar

Larimar is a beautiful blue semi-precious stone mined in the Dominican Republic.  The blue colors are like ocean colors in the Caribbean and the stone is popular on many islands in the area.  On a trip to the Virgin Islands I picked up a specimen of larimar cut like a small marble and a card indicating what stones came from each part of the world.

Here I tried mixing various blues and stirring the colors with a metal rod to create a marbled effect.  These beads do not have the usual clear coat of glass called encasing, so the color is right at the surface of the bead.  It was an interesting challenge to try to match the color.  First I made a core bead and then layered more colors on the surface and stirred those together by hand, being careful to just heat the outside of the bead and not get the entire bead molten.

Stir it up!  Click on the photo for an enlarged view.

larimar marble and beads

Ocean’s calling

beading in progress

Enjoying blue beads again, I am working on a new wrap in aqua colors.  Here are pictured some seed beads in tubes and the tray, the tiny needle used for the peyote stitch fringe, and two handmade beads on a stainless steel rod.

The royal blue wrap was made earlier and I have the basic strand assembled for the aqua blue necklace.  It has three handmade Aura Sun Arts beads in the seafoam blues that remind me of tropical oceans.

seafoam blues with a bit of fringe

Here it is with the ruffled fringe of smaller seed beads added on.  I may add some fringe to the right side of the strand just to see how that looks.

I have not been to the beach in a long time, but I take a look at Hempstead Beach on Long Island New York, by webcam when I want to pretend.

Click on either photo for a closer view.

Annealing glass beads

a kiln full of beads

Here we have a kiln full of handmade beads ready for annealing.  Annealing is a method for heat treating the beads to make them less likely to break.  Annealing is also used in metallurgy to make metals less brittle.

After several hours in the hot kiln, the beads reach 960F and are then allowed to cool slowly.  Now they are ready to release into the wild.

Glass is still glass, so a bead might break if dropped.  It is also wise to avoid thermal shock to glass beads, so if you were wearing a glass bead while sunbathing and then jumped into a cold swimming pool it could have unhappy results.

Armed Forces Day

Today is Armed Forces Day, thank you to all who serve.

Land of the Free

My front porch has flown a flag for the past ten years, and now there is a bit of bunting on the railing as well.  Sometimes the local school band practices marching on my street, not a real parade, just the flavor.

Spring is here, the days are getting warm enough to start making beads again.  Glass prefers working temperatures above 65 degrees.

Here are the first new beads of the season, on the rod at the bottom of the photo.  They are smaller than my usual beads shown at the top.  In the center of the photo are some of the stock glass rods used to create the beads.  I am needing smaller accent beads, and am also experimenting with a larger steel rod which results in a bead with a larger hole.  Click on each photo for a closer view.

first beads of the year

Boxwood lion carving

Carved wooden lion bead, with wooden knot bead at neck

This week we have a special carved boxwood bead in the form of a guardian lion, sometimes also called a Fu Dog.

It has a sweet face with beady black eyes and an open mouth, looking up at the wearer.  The back of the bead has the signature of the artist.  It was purchased some years back at a fine bead shop called Hands of the Hills on Mercer Island, WA, that has unfortunately since become wholesale only.

Another carved wooden bead sits at the back of the neck.  Click on the image for a closer view.  The necklace stringing is a subtle gradient of browns; incorporating seed beads with a sprinkling of larger beads.  It is 24 inches long with a three inch tassel.

This one is promised to a good home but a similar piece would run $125.00.

Festive beads

Festive set

Today’s featured beads are on the festive side.

The three large encased glass cylinder beads were hand made at Aura Sun Arts as a matched set; they have air bubbles, traces of gold and bright splashes of colors inside.  The largest measures 16 x 14 mm and is strung on an 18 inch necklace with a double strand of accent and seed beads in the same colors.

The matching earring beads measure 14 x 11 mm and dangle on shepherd hooks.  Click on the image for a closer view.

This morning’s broadcast of Sunday Morning on CBS featured a segment on “Beads of Courage” an organization that donates beads to children with serious illnesses.  They accept donated beads and have a page that details what beads they especially need.  I look forward to creating some special beads for them.  Either link will get you to the video of the segment that was aired this morning.

For the children involved, having a necklace that details their treatment milestones is a tangible way to be proud of their courage.

The new studio

The new Aura Sun Arts glass studio is nearly ready for action.

new studio in a sunny corner

I have the glass canes in easy reach, and ones in current use arrayed on a hotplate.  A second hotplate on the left out of view keeps the finished beads warm as they slowly cool down, a process called annealing.   The sunny window will give me plenty of ventilation, as will the fan.  I still need a warm enough day to keep the glass happy.

Now that I am back in Seattle I will have to make a pilgrimage to the Tacoma Museum of Glass.  I saw a delightful special on Evening Magazine featuring their exhibit of glass designed by children.  52 different fantastical sketches by children were made up into finished pieces by the glass professionals, who had a great deal of fun in the process.

The links above will show you a video and a slide show of some of the featured work.  Here is a cucumber guy by kdg.


working with flame

How does one make a lampworked glass bead?

half made bead

Take a steel rod of 2 – 3 mm diameter, coated with a clay release agent, and heat up this rod in the flame.  With the other hand, select a glass rod of the color needed, and introduce this slowly to the flame as well.  The end of the glass rod will begin to melt, and form a blob, or “gather.”  Drip this onto the rod, and wrap it around.  Click on the photo for a larger view.

I usually marver the bead now, by rolling it on a flat surface until it takes a cylinder shape, and use this as my canvas to paint with more colors.  I keep adding layers of color, and often finish the bead with some clear glass encasing.

fully molten bead

fully molten bead

The bead can be rather lumpy at this point, like a raspberry.   I heat it up further until it is entirely molten, and takes on a smooth rounded shape.  You must continually rotate the rod to keep the bead centered.  If you wish the bead to be textured you skip this rounding.  The bead can also be shaped by rolling it on a flat surface, or pressing it into a mold.

Then let it cool down until the normal colors return to the glass, and put it away in a kiln or warming thermal blanket to rest for several hours.  The next day it can be taken off the rod:   after a soak the clay rinses away and it twists free, the bead is complete and the rod can be re-coated with clay for the next dance.

The flame is a Minor lampworking torch with a mixture of propane and oxygen fuel.  Proper ventilation and didymium safety glasses are essential.  Wikipedia has several good entries relating to beadmaking and glass art.

Click on any photo here for a larger view.

torch, glass rods, and safety glasses

butterfly beads

I once had a butterfly stand,


where I sold hand colored paper butterflies to my mother, who wisely thought that safer and more creative than a lemonade stand.

I suspect she still has those paper butterflies, carefully stored away.

Now I have the chance to try my hand at butterflies again, shaky childish efforts only a mother could love.  Click to see them fly.

glass butterflies

Could this be an example of the mother-daughter butterfly effect?