After working nonstop for years on digital artworks, taking time off from the medium this summer felt like a good break. This change of pace ended up sparking some new creative energy.
My time off from art-making coincided with my finally deciding to fix a favorite piece of jewelry that had been broken for several years. A longish necklace made from turquoise and hematite, I’d bought it on a Navajo reservation in Arizona in 2006. Not only did I love the necklace, but it was also a reminder of that fun 10-day drive around the Southwest.
My first step was to study up on restringing necklaces. After watching a video or two, reading a few online instructions, and researching tools and supplies, it looked like a simple enough project. I bought a beading board, some nylon-coated stainless steel wire, and a few small hand tools. It was quick and easy. Voila! The necklace was back in my wardrobe.
Now, for decades I’ve thought it would be fun to know how to make jewelry. And that’s as far as it ever went. But I really love stones, and this got me thinking: Why not? It wasn’t as if my creativity was turned off just because I was on break from digital projects. I asked around about good places to buy gemstones for beading and several people directed me to Fire Mountain Gems. It’s an online resource, based in Oregon, for all kinds of polished and natural stones.
Sifting through the information and offerings, I found the selection overwhelming. What did the heck did I want? I settled on a few shapes and varieties of tiger-eye (some brown, some honey), turquoise, Amazonite, aventurine, and hematite that I thought would look good together. I selected a mix of “findings,” which as far as I can tell, means the variety of little metal pieces intended for use as clasps, connectors, and added detail. I may be wrong about that, but so far that’s what I’ve determined.
My first round of necklace-making was gratifying. Then it quickly became like blood to a vampire: Must make more! Need more stones! More wire! More little silver thingies!
It occurred to me I have pendants I’d been transferring from one cord to another for years. Some of them had belonged to my mother. Why not create new pieces with them as the centerpiece? I liked the idea of creating special necklaces for each of them. I placed beads and pendants in groups together to get a sense of potential color combinations.
I placed a second order with Fire Mountain gems, this time getting some gorgeous round amethyst beads, smoky quartz, more turquoise, and a variety of metal beads. A friend gave me some garnet stones she had never used. I took apart a simple peridot strand I’d picked up in Utah on that same Southwestern drive. I started taking apart some of my less-loved jewelry to use the stones and parts to make new pieces with.
I selected the turquoise stones above for this particular cloisonne pendant because of its deep green color and brown markings, which I thought worked well with the brown, green, yellow, and orange of the pendant. The very small brown beads came from a necklace I haven’t worn in about 20 years — I took it apart to use the beads.
In the background of the above photo, on the right, you can see a few wire-wrapped stone pendants I got through an Etsy seller a few years ago. The blue one is called Sea Jasper and the green one is (if I remember correctly) Landscape Jasper. After reading up on stone processing through Fire Mountain Gems, I’m pretty sure those have been color-treated. If I come up with some complementary bead combinations I like, I’ll make necklaces for those as well.
After producing about a dozen necklaces, I did start to lose some steam. Someone who’d dabbled in beading had told me, “It takes good eyesight and a lot of patience.” She was right.
I liked the designing process more than the execution, as was the case for me with other tactile creative endeavors. (I wrote about that in post about working with stained glass.) It took a while to get the hang of crimping the end pieces effectively so that the necklace wouldn’t suddenly break open at the clasp and dissolve, beads running down my chest, as happened one night while having dinner in a restaurant. Despite watching the crimping technique online, and having it personally shown to me by a bead store owner, it didn’t click for me until I found written instructions for it on the back of a crimp bead package. I think I’ve finally got that down.
I’m taking a break from beading now, too. But there are a lot of stones and wire waiting for me when the urge strikes again. Thanks for joining me on this artistic detour!