Discover your jewelry-making style with a Beads, Baubles & Jewels video!


 My Style, Your Style!  

We beaders love a challenge! The challenge of learning new stitches and twists on a technique. The challenge of that “blank page” moment when you spread out your beads and wonder what you’ll make. But the challenge we love most is seeing what happens when two or more beaders go to their respective beading corners with identical materials and create individual, personal pieces of beadwork.

Marlene Blessing and I are no exception and love beading challenges, too. In our new season of presenting on Beads, Baubles & Jewels on Public Television, we had loads of fun doing a “My Style, Your Style” segment that we approached just like a challenge. We started with identical materials, key charms in three metal finishes––pewter, sterling silver, and shibuichi, and an option to use a toggle that looked like a keyhole.  The charms were designed by Greg Ogden and Cynthia Thornton at Green Girl Studios. Our mission was to use the same materials in our jewelry designs, knowing we had personal styles, then share the process we each went through to reach our final designs. So, read the scoop on our different style stories, and watch the video from the show!

How did we each approach our jewelry design plans?

Marlene: I wanted the grouping of keys to be front and center, clanking together like keys on a key ring. At first, I thought I would create a strung necklace for these charms, adding a great Green Girl heart toggle clasp (with a “key” for the bar, of course). Even though I was short on time, I changed my course. Seed bead weaving was the way to go. I wanted to mix the fabric-like texture of beadweaving with the hardness of metal. That’s where some anxiety crept in. I’m a slow stitcher. (And I don’t have Leslie’s great facility with seed beads.)

Leslie: Keys are such powerful symbols besides being cool shapes. The style of these specific keys made me think of medieval  times, and the metal finishes reminded me of Renaissance Faire jewelry and armory. So, I chose to design a heraldic banner brooch. I knew I’d be using seed beads even though, like Marlene said, there wasn’t much time. I may be faster than the average beader, but I’m not that fast! So, I worked in my fastest stitch, peyote, and used larger sized cylinder beads, size 10º, which helped me finish even faster.

 What else inspired us besides the key charms?

Marlene: I followed a tip from Jean Campbell about not reinventing the wheel (or the jewelry) and decided to recycle design elements from something I already made—then add new twists. I chose to do a tubular herringbone single strand with stripes like those in my Maggie’s Weave project in the August/September 2009 issue of Beadwork. I also wanted to use a design idea from a strung project I made for the Fall 2009 issue of Stringing.

Leslie: Since this piece had a story, the keyhole toggle of course had to be an actual keyhole in the beadwork. I used it as a design element with a paradoxical function. A keyhole to what?  Did one of the keys open it?  What does a lock in a banner open to? It may be bit of Alice in Wonderland—that’s the mystery and fantasy of keyholes. It instantly invites the question, what’s on the other side?

What gave each of our jewelry designs a Marlene or Leslie look?

Marlene: Probably my subtle asymmetry in the design. I think I'm a bit of a tease. I want my pieces to look very balanced, almost symmetrical. In this piece, I made sure the stripes were arranged asymmetrically, and the detail with the jump rings and hammered links was only on one side of the necklace. My style!

Leslie: And I'm just the opposite! I admire anyone who makes asymmetrical work, like Marlene does. It’s not easy. So I’m totally about symmetry. The only math I was good at was geometry, and I’ve always been inspired by geometric forms. My designs are very architectural, especially my seed bead work.  Plus, speaking of not reinventing, I’d already engineered the type of piece I made for this challenge, having made other medallion, banner style pieces. Also, the colors of the keys were right up my alley: though I do use bright colors, I am more drawn to metallic and matte surfaces. My style!


How to find your style

As you see, Marlene and I developed personal styles only after we’d worked to grow a jewelry-making vocabulary. We’d already explored different techniques and materials, so we had many choices we could use.  Beads, Baubles & Jewels is all about helping you build your own buffet, so you can develop your personal style, too. The teachers and designers on Beads, Baubles & Jewels are experts who show you what’s new in materials and tools; how to work techniques in wire, beadweaving, metals and more; and how to simply play as a designer. Find your style—or styles! So check out the sneak peek at My Style, Your Style, and be sure to pre-order the latest season of Beads, Baubles & Jewels for even more ideas and inspiration!


Did our key challenge open some doors to your own ideas? Share them with us!


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