My First Bead Swap: Mining Our eMags for Inspiration

I'm so excited to be taking part in my first bead-swap blog party! I was thrilled to be invited to Lori Anderson's 2011 Bead Soup Blog Party (there are over 300 participants this year!) and couldn't wait to join in.


I sent Lesley turquoise and coral beads with some aventurine, a big round carnelian loop for a focal piece, and a silver toggle accented with fleur de lis, in honor of my current home in Louisiana. (Fleur de lis are a very abundant local icon of hospitality and, of course, the Saints!)

What is a bead-swap blog party?
Basically, bloggers sign up to participate and then are given a partner with which to swap beads and a special clasp. Then we each create a piece of jewelry using the supplies we were given. It's a fun project, but it truly is a creativity challenge; it's easy to make jewelry with beads, wire, and other findings that you've bought yourself, chosen with an end result in mind. But to be given products that are most likely not your personal standard jewelry-making fare stretches your imagination and forces you to think outside the box–which is the purpose of the swap.


Lesley sent me ceramic and Czech pressed-glass beads in pretty turquoise and golden yellow hues, along with a bead-woven toggle clasp that she made herself–and it's gorgeous! She even made me some Vintaj Natural Brass wire jump rings to match a Vintaj component she used as a base for the toggle's ring. So thoughtful!

My partner is the hilarious and talented Lesley from Sweet Freedom Designs (and owner of YaYa Beads, a brick-and-mortar bead store, lucky lady!). Lesley and I each created collections of beads, a focal piece, and a special clasp to meet the blog-party requirements and sent our packages to each other. The the fun begins!

Making the Jewelry: Getting Inspired
As I said, the purpose is to get us to think outside our usual jewelry-making style and stretch our imagination. Since I normally do metalwork, metal clay, or stringing, the bead-woven clasp Lesley made for me will definitely add a new (and beautiful) look to this design. I also haven't used ceramic or Czech glass beads much in the past, usually sticking with gemstone or lampwork glass beads. So, I'm definitely out of my element and in need of some inspiration!


Serendipity! We had just published our second and third new jewelry-making eMagazines (Live Wire and Everyday Bracelets, to go along with our first one, Handcrafted Jewelry Studio) when I received my beads from Lesley. Voila! The inspiration I needed was delivered right to me in a fun, interactive format.

Thinking about the gorgeous toggle clasp that Lesley so generously created for me made me want to make a necklace where it could be worn in the front (or to the side, which is a common element in my jewelry) to show it off to its fullest. Because she provided me with handmade brass wire jump rings, too, I wanted to continue that look by using more natural brass wire (or bronze, which looks similar). Looking through Live Wire helped me realize I wanted to create a necklace strung on wire rather than cord so it could be more sculptural, for appearance purposes but which should also (I expect) help keep the pretty toggle where I want it to lay, front and (sort of) center, near the collar bone.


Jess Italia Lincoln's Seek Wisdom Necklace in Handcrafted Jewelry Studio 

I'm always drawn to Handcrafted Jewelry Studio and Everyday Bracelets (plus Stringing and now Beadwork!) Editor Danielle Fox's work; our styles are similar, and her jewelry designs inspire me. So I knew I'd find inspiration in the projects she selected for those two eMags. I love the greenish-blue, turquoise green, golden yellow, and ruby red color scheme (a fave of mine) used as accents with vintage-looking brass components in Jess Italia Lincoln's Seek Wisdom Necklace from Handcrafted Jewelry Studio. I could add some colorful beads from my own stash to the ones Lesley sent me and make something like that. . .plus it features a vintage-looking brass ring similar to the one I'll be using, and it's in a prominent position, which I also wanted.

Michelle Mach's Garden Gate bracelet from Everyday Bracelets

On the other hand, the Garden Cottage theme bracelets in Everyday Bracelets really fit my personal style and the color scheme of my beads, especially Lorelei Eurto's Patina and Petals bracelet. Lesley made me this gorgeous beaded toggle clasp that I want to highlight, though, so something more simple such as Michelle Mach's Garden Gate bracelet might be more appropriate to show that off.  


Jane Dickerson's Button Links bracelet from Live Wire

I need wire inspiration, as well, since I'm going to be building my necklace (or bracelet?) on wire and letting the vintage look of the dark brass be a design element as well as a structural component of my final design. Live Wire is a treasure trove of information for me, a relative newbie to wire jewelry making who can always use a refresher on the smartest wirework techniques.

Some of the beads I received in my swap are flat with holes in the center, similar to buttons, so I can borrow from Jane Dickerson's Button Links bracelet in Live Wire to help me incorporate those in my final design.


My beads are similar in color and finish to the ceramic hand in Cindy Wimmer's Spiral Charm Holder from Live Wire. I love the pale golden silk ribbon she has accented that bead with; it brings out the lighter tones in the bead and looks nice against the dark metal, so I'm saving that idea for my design as well.

Decisions, decisions! If you've never done a bead swap, blog hop, or other creativity-inducing design challenge, for jewelry making or any other craft, I highly recommend it! You'll meet great people, learn new things, and expand your design abilities. If you have done one and need some great resources for inspiration–or if you're just in the mood to make some gorgeous jewelry and want to get your inspiration and instruction from a fun, interactive new product, I highly recommend our new eMags! Between the three–Handcrafted Jewelry Studio, Live Wire, and Everyday Bracelets–there's something for everyone, and each one is available for Macs or PCs. Video fun and instruction, fabulous products, tool tutorials, and visits with your favorite designers are just a few of the things you can enjoy in the eMags–not to mention dozens of step-by-step jewelry-making projects to keep you busy and inspired for days!

P.S. Watch JMD in the coming weeks for updates about the jewelry I make for the swap, and be sure to visit Lesley's blog to see what she makes with the beads I sent to her. Have you ever participated in a bead swap and/or blog party? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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