Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Creative Spark Summer 2016

For the past few years, I've been fortunate enough to be a designer for ZNetShows, a great supplier of cultured sea glass and other beads for retail and wholesale.  A few times a year, designer/artists are invited to choose from their new products and create jewelry and non-wearable art to be included in Creative Spark, an online magazine.

The summer issue has just come out, and it's chock full of eye candy featuring cultured sea glass in fun new shapes, sea glass beads, beautiful Chinese crystal beads, and glass pearls.

Two of my designs are included - a fun and lightweight cultured sea glass nugget necklace (page 31) that can be worn several different ways (including as a bracelet!) and earrings spotlighting Chinese crystals in a flat spiral weave (page 54)  that would look great with either a casual summer dress or a fancy outfit for dining under the summer stars.

This shows the bracelet option for this design - wrapped several times, with fun fringe.

Go check out the wonderful designs created by all of the jewelry artists, and if you're inspired, be sure to check out the offerings from ZNetShows!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Busted, Blown, Weighted, and Moved -- The First Show Of The Season

I love doing art shows and festivals. I really do - I get to spend two days outdoors in the fresh air, meet fun and cool people, and hopefully make lots of folks happy with my jewelry.

At one point, I was doing ten to twelve shows a year.  Yep, that's a lot. Since I moved, I've gone pretty much back to ground zero, discovering and applying for new shows and learning what works for me.

All that said, earlier this month was my first show of four (five, if I get off the wait list for one more) between now and September.  And boy, howdy, was it an adventure!

The Saturday forecast called for rain late in the afternoon. Except that the rain started right after noon. This was my view for four hours.

The silver lining is that my tent did not leak, despite many hours of saturation. The wind did not blow the rain into the tents.  And there were a few hardy souls who came out with their galoshes and umbrellas and shopped the show anyway. Gotta love 'em!

First day = not so great due to crappy weather.  Okay, Day Two was supposed to be sunny.

And it was sunny.  But it was also windy. Chicago windy.

Holy crap, y'all.

Necklace busts were flying all over the place -- this one finally gave up the ghost and broke in two.

The clamp solution wasn't pretty, but it was effective.

The show organizer required 40 pounds of weight on each leg of the tent.  I thought that seemed a tad excessive, but I dutifully strapped two 20-pound hand weights to each tent leg.

I can only imagine what the guy at Dick's Sporting Goods
 thought when I bought eight 20-pound hand weights

And thank goodness I did -- by the end of the day, the tent had stayed on the ground, but even with that much weight, it had shifted several inches from its original location. When the day started, the front edge of the table was inside the tent leg, not two inches in front of it. Astonishingly, none of the frames suspended from the tent fell, and no jewelry broke.  That, my friends, was a minor miracle.

If you've ever eaten at Waffle House, you know they call the various preparations of their hash browns "scattered, smothered, covered and chunked." I'll forever think of this show as "busted, blown, weighted and moved."  And just like Waffle House hash browns, it's not a bad thing -- just not something you should experience too often!

So what did we learn this weekend? That an investment in a good tent is worth the money if you don't like leaky tent roofs. That when the show organizer says you need 160 pounds of weight on your tent, you respect their wisdom and experience. That necklace busts will bust apart after five or six impacts with the pavement. And, despite the soggy shoes from rainstorms and achy legs from chasing down flying necklace busts, I love doing shows. Next one in three weeks!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Bead Peeps Swap 'n' Hop - The Creamsicle Conundrum

Bead swaps and design challenges are a great way to get the creative juices flowing, so when I saw a call on the Facebook group Bead Peeps for a swap, I was all in. And I lucked out, too, getting the lovely Lori Alainn Blanchard of Alainn Jewelry as my partner.  She sent me the delicious beads below for me to work with:

and the handcrafted focal:

Lori had asked me what colors I find most challenging to work with, and then, as any good swap partner would, she sent me that exact thing -- flourescent creamsicle orange.

I could almost hear her laughing from several hundred miles away.....;-

The first thing I worked on was the right way to highlight the focal, and I hoped to use the tilas to do so. But after banging my head against the wall trying several different unsuccessful configurations, I decided the tilas wanted to work elsewhere, and concentrated on the focal. Here's what happened:

All I added from my stash was some merlot and dark gold seed beads, the lapis rounds in the neckstrap, and my own fabricated gold clasp. And if you look really closely in the first round of beads around the focal, you'll see that I used some of the creamsicle seeds there.

Next up was a bracelet:

Then I wanted to use the faceted Czech glass Lori had sent.  Initially, I thought those would go with the focal, but once I'd finished the centerpiece, the greens and blues of the Czech glass just didn't work with the reds and turquoises, so I set them aside on the worktable.  They ended up near a piece I'd done several months ago and called Iris - the blues and greens worked really well together! Serendipity worked in my favor this time!

There were other colors of seed beads that I hadn't yet used, so a pair of freeform peyote earrings seemed to be in order:

And a ring:

And, finally, something to celebrate that challenging creamsicle color!  I call these earrings Creamsicle Conundrum:

Here's a family picture:

Thanks for reading all the way down, thanks to Lori for being a fun and generous partner, and thanks to Linda Anderson for hosting the swap!

Now, go look at all the creations from others who've taken part in the swap challenge -- get ready for some serious eye candy!

Linda Anderson
- Hostess -





CatherineLa Vite


Maria RosaSharrow


Terry JeanetteCarter


KellyHosford Patterson


KristinaHahn Eleniak

Robin LynneShowstack

Ingevon Roos










Tami Norris



BobbieRafferty  (You are here!)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Buckle Up - Show Season's Starting!

Alright, all you lovers of wacky tales of flying bugs the size of Volkswagons and men dancing in skirts, it's time for Summer Show Season! 

If you're relatively new to the blog, I do art fairs with my jewelry, and I chronicle the joys and adventures of my weekends here.  

From the sublime (the wonderful woman who walked into my tent and purchased two of the most extravagant - and expensive - pieces in my collection without batting an eye) to the ridiculous (ever try to hold down a metal-framed tent in gale force winds? With lightning flashing? What could go wrong?) to the serendipitous (meeting online friends in person!), I love doing shows, I love meeting the people who attend them, and I love sharing the inevitable stories with you.

Since moving to Chicago and taking a job that often obligates me on weekends, my show activity has dropped quite a bit as I re-establish myself in a completely new market, but I have three shows lined up so far, with my fingers crossed as I await notification for two more.

Here's how the summer's shaping up so far:

buffalo grove
Buffalo Grove, IL
June 4 & 5

Naperville Woman's Club Logo

Naperville, IL
July 9 & 10

Lakeshore Arts Festival

Evanston, IL
August 6 & 7

Now, if I can just remember how the tent works and how to set up my display, it'll be great!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Bead Peeps Swap & Hop - My Partner and What She Sent

I'm so excited to be participating in a new-to-me swap and design challenge, this time hosted through the Bead Peeps Facebook group.  And I'm thrilled to introduce my swap partner, Lori Alainn Blanchard of Alainn Jewelry. (What, you don't follow her blog yet? Get yourself over there, enjoy the eye candy, and put her on your blog feed immediately! You're welcome.)

Lori's an enthusiastic and warm person, who's planning her wedding while she works and designs her fantastic jewelry. She rides motorcycles, which proves she's the kind of brave bad ass lady I can't possibly claim to be (I would be decorating the pavement immediately). She's got a fun sense of humor, and her spirit comes through in her designs.

Lori and I are really well-matched. We both love to explore and mix a variety of techniques, and love color. We both work with seed beads and larger beads. Neither of us has met a bead we didn't like (or at least think we could so something with). She shops with the same philosophy as I do - if it's pretty or interesting, buy it with the certainty that you'll find a fabulous use for it eventually.

Want to see some of Lori's beauties?

This first one knocked my socks off.  It just got photographed for inclusion in Bead & Button (yay, Lori!), and I think you can see why.  It also proved to me that we were well-matched, because it reminded me of a necklace I made that I affectionately referred to as "the monster."

This next one has lush, abundant fringe. I can't do fringe. Don't know why, but I've never felt like a fringe-y kind of girl, but this might change my thinking.

And this bracelet? The colors are so pretty and the embroidery is great.

In yesterday's mail, I got the beads that Lori sent me for this swap challenge, and y'all, it's full of yummy things.  Take a look!  Czech glass and delicas and seed beads and daggers and tilas and half tilas and a highly cool focal, oh my!

Yes, take a closer look at the very cool focal.  It's a lapis cab with sculpted clay by Sculpted Windows.

The big challenge here? The neon creamsicle seeds. I told Lori I am challenged by neons, and she picked up on that. But she eased me into dealing with my phobia by sending neon beads that actually pick up a color in the focal, so I think I may be okay. Hold a good thought.

What did I send Lori? I forgot to take a picture before packaging it up, but you can see it here.  I can't wait to see what she makes with it!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Beads Are Good Medicine

Life brought me a few unexpected days at home this week - in the form of a nasty bug. But while sitting on the sofa looking and feeling fairly miserable, a tray of beads and findings that I've gotten through a monthly subscription to Bargain Bead Box spoke to me. Okay, maybe that was a fever hallucination. Whatever.

Apparently, a low-grade fever can also be a creativity spark, because a couple of necklaces almost made themselves as I sorted through the beads.  The first thing that caught my eye was some lovely light blue faceted beads with a slight iridescence, which were a match for some beads I'd been hoarding, waiting for the perfect pairing. 

See the cream/blue/brown beads there? Those were the ones I had been hoarding. They are so pretty.
Paired with some transparent light brown crystals with the same iridescence, and a few dozen knots later, I had a lovely long necklace.

Then another combination jumped out -- this time in deeper teal/turquoise. The findings that had come with one of the Bead Box selections included a packet of eyepins, so this necklace was more of a rosary style.  

When I laid the two side by side, a sickroom miracle occurred -- they actually went together nicely! They are both very simple, but simple was what I needed. And everything doesn't have to be at a triple-back-flip-with-a-double-twist level of difficulty, right?

And yes, I did choose a work outfit specifically to wear these necklaces together when I went back to the office.

The beads were very therapeutic. Now, if I could only figure out a way to have the doctor prescribe a nice visit to the bead store - do you think the insurance company would go for that?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Picasso Passion

Admission time.  I'm a sucker for a picasso finish on a bead.

So when I found some delicious little picasso lentils that had swirls of turquoise, cream, caramel, brown, and grey, those babies practically leapt into my shopping basket.

What a lousy photograph! Trust me, the beads are far more fabulous than this.
Just think of this as the bead's drivers licence photo - those are always a little wonky.

And who am I to argue with the beads?  They are luminescent and light, and just brought a smile to my face.

When it came time to introduce them to their beady friends, I decided to play up the turquoise and let them all shine in a fairly simple right angle weave design.

The necklace curves nicely around the neck, and falls right inside the collar of a blouse.

Sometimes the beads just tell you what the design needs to be. This was one of those, and it made me very happy.  I hope you like it, too!