Sunday, March 8, 2009

Something for me

I have a wonderful friend, Cathy, who always knows just the right thing to cheer a person up. Last year she surprised me with a gift certificate to Bodacious Beads, which is a very nifty bead shop in the Chicago Suburbs. It has all sorts of wonderful stuff, great staff, and at the time was on my way home from my then-job. On another hand, I've been in the Lyndon Glassworks Bead of the Month Club for a few years. At first I got seed beads, then fringe and trim beads, and finally I switched to their Swarovski option. Each month they send me an assortment of Swarovski crystals, different sizes, shapes and colors.

How do these relate? Well, BOMC sent 6 Palace Green Opal 8mm cubes, and I was blown away. They were SO beautiful. But what to do with only 6 of them? I didn't want to make earrings, and wasn't overwhelmed with any of the other ideas I had, so I put them away and looked at them from time to time. Fast forward to me at Bodacious Beads, looking for something not for my jewelry to sell, but for myself. There in the bins were all sorts of Swarovski crystals. And at the back of the table, there were the 8mm Palace Green Opal cubes. They were pricey enough that I probably wouldn't have stretched my budget for them, but my friend meant for me to have a gift, and this was the nicest gift I could imagine at that moment. So I bought enough more of them to make a mosaic pendant, and this week I finally took the time to make it.

I've been developing this pendant design for a while, long enough that I consider it one of my signature pieces, and I've made it in a number of different materials. The basic idea is using the silver wire frame as a loom and setting the beads using the techniques of loom beading. I string the beads on very fine softflex -- if I were using glass beads with a larger hole, fine would be small enough, but the holes in these crystals are small and the edges are sharp enough to scrape the coating off the softflex if it is too heavy. The warp threads are the same 28g sterling that I used to coil over the 20g frame. Once the beads were in place, I coiled the frame, going right over the softflex where it crosses the frame. Then I added a second layer to the frame with a 2mm sterling bead every fourth wrap. (That completely covers and smooths over any lumpiness that the loom technique left behind.) And finally, I folded the end into a bail that I covered with herringbone weaving and bent it into shape over a 7.5mm mandrel.

The sides of the square are about 1" each. In addition to the 16 beads, this used about 12 inches of 20g sterling, 12 inches of softflex, 60 of the little silver beads, and about 16 feet of 28g sterling wire. So you can see that if you use less expensive beads, it isn't a particularly expensive project to make. It's a bit fiddly, and there are times when it feels like you need three or four hands to get everything in the right place, but by this time I've made quite a few loom-woven pendants and many, many herringbone bails, so it is a comfortable project for me to do.

I'm particularly proud of this one because it really has benefited from all the practice and is as close to perfect as I am likely to get. And since the beads were a gift, this one is not for sale. It's mine, all mine. In fact, I'm wearing it right now :-)

See you next week, and thanks for looking. Please feel free to comment or critique.

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