Saturday, October 03, 2009


I'm going to be playing with different templates for a bit. Still haven't found a color scheme for the blog I like, so I'm just going to go with the Minima template for now.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Bead Journal Project 2010

I just sent in my registration email for the Bead Journal Project 2010. The Bead Journal Project involves making some sort of beaded object each month for twelve months. The 2010 project begins in January and registration runs until December 15th.

The first step is to plan the framework for the project. What type of object should I make? How big should it be? Will I be able to complete it in a month? With the journal pieces be displayed together or enjoyed as individual pieces? I have a few months to work out the details. I hope to post work-in-progress pictures and the completed pieces as I go.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Review: Polymer Clay Color Inspirations: Techniques and Jewelry Projects for Creating Successful Palettes

Maggie Maggio and Lindly Haunani bring their extensive knowledge of color theory to polymer clay in their new book, Polymer Clay Color Inspirations, with stunning results. The concepts of hue, value, saturation and other properties of color become crystal clear after a series of hands-on exercises successively take the reader from opening a package of clay to creating a complex collage box using a personally developed color palette.

Polymer Clay Color Inspirations is organized into ten chapters, each beginning with a gorgeous full page photograph of work from various artists. There is also an appendix that contains worksheets and diagrams at full size that are referenced in other places in the book. These sheets are designed to be copied and laminated for personal use.

The first chapter is the fairly standard feature for polymer clay how-to books, explaining the types of clay and the tools necessary to work with them, along with an explanation of the Skinner blend and its uses. Unique to the book are the pie-chart labeling method for samples and the idea of test twists, which allow experimentation with color combinations and contrast while using only small amounts of clay. Each chapter ends with an Artist Spotlight that includes a couple photographs of the artist's work and a statement on their approach to color. Featured artists are Cynthia Toops, Elise Winters, Carol Simmons, Margaret Regan, Kathleen Dustin, Sarah Nelson Shriver, Dan Cormier, Debra DeWolff, Jeffrey Lloyd Dever, and Laurie Mika.

Chapter 2 covers basic color properties and contains four projects, three of which are color testing tools. The fourth exercise produces beads that vary hue and value within themselves. Chapter 3 challenges the reader to find a personal color palette and contains a collage project and a skinner blend brooch project. The brooch isn't my style so I will modify the shape when I get to that project. So far I've completed the Package Color Testing and Value Sorting exercises from Chapter 1. I plan to go through the projects of the book in order, though I did have to make a quick color scale out of Chapter 5 to satisfy a curiosity. When I finish a chapter, I'll post my results.

Chapter 4 involves developing a personal color palette based on examining the collage from the previous chapter. There is in depth discussion of various primary colors and their secondaries, and the authors list their palettes and explain why they chose those colors. The chapter includes three projects: "Tasting Tiles" to choose your primaries by mixing small samples of secondary and "mud" colors to place against your collage, an exercise for the artist put off by all the measuring in "Instinctual Color Mixing", and a lovely skinner blend lei using your chosen primaries.

I can tell already that I'm going to spend a lot of time on Chapter 5. Chapter 5 studies the gradations between colors and three projects: "Mixing Color Scales" studies the transition between two colors, while the ingenious "Mixing Color-Scale Triangles" handles mixing three-primary colors in a way that won't make you tear your hair out. The chapter concludes with a Bargello Bead project. By now you might have noticed that every chapter includes an applied-knowledge project in addition to experiments with color.

Worksheets for the color scale and triangle exercises are included in the back of the book. I love these exercises for two reasons. First, the method of measuring the clay to be mixed is easy and efficient and doesn't involve trying to cut 1/64 of an inch squares out of a sheet of clay. Secondly, the scales take the form of beads on a string, which allows for a tactile enjoyment of color. Polymer clay art, particularly jewelry, invites touch. I love Margaret Regan's quote on this aspect of polymer clay in her spotlight: "Polymer color: so thick and rich, you can roll it into a ball." Previously I had stored my color chips in a notebook glued to paper. While I liked looking at the colors and it helped me keep track of various blends, somehow this wasn't a satisfying way to record color. Beads on a string that I can hold up to the light or fondle while pondering color combinations are superior for my way of working with color.

Chapter 6 handles combining colors and describes various types of color schemes. Exercises include creating a contrast table for your collage colors (though this isn't formally labelled as an exercise for some reason), creating stripe blends that will be recorded as a fan deck, the leftovers from which will be used in the final project, the Log Cabin pin. Chapter 7 deals with how colors change when placed next to each other. The two projects are a series of striped canes with stripes of varying width, and a cute necklace created using the canes to make leaves.

Chapter 8 explores the amount of a color to use relative to other colors. I was very amused to find Goethe's study of color proportion cited in the book while I was avoiding my 19th century German reading homework. The contrast table returns in a modified form and the final exercise is several iterations of a leaf mosaic brooch with differing color placements. Chapter 9 covers pattern and textures. There are three exercises, though the first exercise could go on for quite a while depending on how many patter samples you want to make. The second project is a bracelet made out of the pattern samples and the third is a pendent with multiple different textures. The authors present instructions for a variety of their own patterns and textures and encourage the reader to experiment further.

The tenth chapter is devoted to a single project, the Collage Box. This project should combine everything the reader has learned from the previous projects, indeed some of the actual pieces from previous projects are recognizable in the authors' collage boxes. Four caning techniques are also explained in this chapter.

I cannot recommend this book enough to the polymer clay artist who's interested in learning more about color. Even for the casual hobbyist, the book contains some fun projects and lovely inspiration photos. The author's mastery of color is evidence by the fact that I find myself often picking up the book just to look at it, even after I've read every page. The main con I can see is that the book is very Premo-centric. Users of other clay brands will need to do a little more experimenting to find out what ratios of color to use, though there is a table in the value section that shows the strengths of black and white across several brands. This deficit is also alleviated by the fact that Maggie Maggio is posting "extras" to her blog every Saturday, some of which include photos of experiments made with other clay brands. The recommended retail price for the book is US$21.99. The content is worth the price.

Maggie Maggio's blog can be found at

Lindly Haunani also has a blog at

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bead and Button Show 2009

I had the good fortune to attend the 2009 Bead & Button Show in Milwaukee for a few days. I took the Polygon Weave class with Linda Lehman and had a wonderful time.

The show encompassed the Midwest Airlines Center, the Hyatt Hotel, and the Hilton Hotel. The Polygon Weave class was in the Hilton and took place on Thursday.

The polygon weave is an African stitch that reminds me of a cross between Ndebele and African Helix. The class was great fun and we picked up all sorts of tips on bead weaving, beading supplies, and even fiber arts. The kits available came in a variety of colors and I was able to grab a purple one. Pictured right is my progress towards the end of the class. I've since picked up the pace with my stitching, though I can't match Linda's seven inches an hour (!) yet.

General shopping opened on Friday. I attended the show with my mother and it took us about five hours to wind our way through the show floor, even after we started picking up the pace in anticipation of Chicago rush hour traffic on the way back.

Here's Beyond Beadery's booth, where I purchased some great Swarovski crystal focal cabochons. I'll save my loot for a separate post. I found some great deals and had a great time ogling lampwork beads.

Another highlight of the show was the Bead Dreams display. My pictures don't do justice to these fantastic pieces.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Background Music for Beading

Music can stimulate the creative process, so I thought I'd throw out a recommendation for Pandora Radio. Pandora is an internet radio station that creates custom play lists based on an artist or genre. Input your favorite artist and you'll be presented with their songs and songs by artists with similar qualities. I use Pandora when I'm looking for music of a certain style when I don't want to bother sifting through my collection to fill a play list, leaving more time for beadwork!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year's Craft Resolutions

Happy New Year! 'Tis the season for making promises that you hope to keep. This year I thought I'd make my resolutions art-related and share them with my readers in hopes that making my resolutions public will inspire me to keep to them.

New Year's Craft Resolution #1:

Explore New Color Palettes

I naturally gravitate to rich jewel tones and high contrast monochromatic color schemes. This year I plan to expand my use of color by experimenting with more diverse color options, including more muted tones that I usually avoid. In addition, I need to finally do something with my sad lonely little pack of Ecru clay.

New Year's Craft Resolution #2:

Finish Projects Promptly

I love bead weaving. I do not love attaching clasps or finishing off warp threads. This results in an ever growing pile of unfinished projects. In the coming year I plan to finish more projects before moving onto something else.

New Year's Craft Resolution #3:

Teach More

Since returning from Berlin, I haven't held any beading classes, though I have taught girl scouts. In 2009 I plan to hold more bead weaving classes to share my passion for this art form and improve my teaching skills.

What are your crafter's resolutions for 2009?