Notes to Self – #12 – Serendipity and Patience

Okay! In all my ‘creative’ posts I advocate Patience. In  all my blogs I say Patience is the hardest thing to do and Serendipity is masked as a booboo.

Well, I really do wish I would follow my own advice. It is so tiresome to discover what I thought was completely a lost cause turns into a brand new design but impatience couldn’t see it.

Case in point: I have been struggling over a new bracelet for my sister. It is to remind her not to spend money during our mall crawls and put the money she might have spent into her special ‘Going to Spain’ savings account. And I had decided to use memory wire as the bracelet’s skeleton.

I waged war with that memory wire and it seemed to be winning. Today I am pleased to announce I had lost only a few battles but I have WON the war.

My memory wire bracelet was to include a wire coiling technique and some wrapped wooden beads.  I finished it and hated it. The whole thing, I thought, was too bulky. I through it on my workbench in disgust. I went off and created another bracelet with a different wire coiling technique and added a pair of earrings to match. That, at least, was successful.

Today, just a few hours ago, I picked up that foul bracelet and discovered it isn’t so vile after all. I tightened a twist here and aligned a curl there and took a picture. I like it!!

My not so failed failure

My not so failed failureThis bracelet has now become the 'Lost Spanish Bracelet': I might have to make another pair of earrings.Spanish Bracelet

This bracelet curls around the wrist as all wrist size memory wire does. At the ends the wire curls back on itself to make a rather graceful arabesque.

Technique: Wire Spring Bead

This technique I learned from Jelcy Romberg; an enlightened teacher who believes that, instead of teaching a set piece one should learn a technique and then go exploring with it.  She espouses the philosophy that sharing techniques instead of copyrighting a design is what furthers an art. Add these Gizmo wire coil beads to spice up a piece of artisan jewellery.

 Most important: You must have patience. Your efforts will not be perfect the first time you do a technique. It takes practice to do anything skillfully.

ToolBox:   Gizmo,  Artistic Wire in 18ga, or 20ga, or 22ga (it comes in many glorious colours),   time and patience.

The Gizmo, is the brain child of LeRoy Goertz. The link will take you to his YouTube demonstration. Basically it’s a way to wind wire into a spring, thread it with more wire and wind it too. The number of times you thread with a length of wire and wind it, the bigger and bolder the bead you are making will be.

I hope you visited LeRoy’s YouTube production because a picture really is worth a thousand words.

Step 1.

Step 1.

Wrap the wire of your choice around the twisty bit of the mandrel: if you don’t do this step you will just be going around in circles and getting nowhere fast. The wire will come from behind the mandrel’s twisty bit to the front of the long straight bit. Insert the straight bit through the appropriate hole in the jig.

Step 2.

Step 2.Turn the crank of the Gizmo. With your thumbnail, guide the wire onto the long side of the Gizmo mandrel. If there is a small space between the coils that's good - just as long as the spacing in the coil is not too great. This little bit of space will greatly assist you when it's time to slip the wire off the mandrel.Step 3.

Remove the coil from the mandrel. If you find this a difficult thing to do, have no fear: that thing really will come off. Instead of the pulling and pushing and swearing I did, learn from my experience. That bit of space your thumbnail helped keep in the coil is the trick for easy coil removal. If you kept pushing the coils towards the mandrel crank, you are going to suffer mightily. Turning the mandrel back and forth while you are pushing the coil toward the end will help – but it isn’t easy. Try the thumbnail method instead.
    Thread another wire through the centre of the coil. I’ve used a different colour of wire so you could perhaps see the thing better but usually you would use the same coloured wire for this wire.
Step 4.

Step 4.

   Anchor both wires to the twisty bit of the mandrel. Drape the coil and the inner wire from back to front of the straight bit.  Start coiling. As in Step 3. allow some small space within the coil to assist in getting it off the long straight bit of the mandrel. As the coiled coil is pushed to the end of the mandrel, it will pull up and tighten the wire you inserted into the coil. The amount of pushing together will help determine the size of the wire bead.


You’ve pulled the bead off the mandrel. Now some extra notes.
Some variations, if you will.
Make 2 coils and insert a wire into each. Tie the wire end of the 2 coils and the 2 inner wires onto the twisty bit of the mandrel; ensure all 4 wires are looped around from back to front.  Start twisting – – a double coil bead.
Make a short coil on a long inner wire. Start by coiling a bit of that inner wire. When you have made a length of simple coil, add the 1st coil to the mix. Finish with more of the simple coil using the inner wire.
Follow the instructions to the end of Step 3.  Start coiling the coil and the inner wire together and, at the same time, push the coil toward the twisty bit of the mandrel. Loosen up and you will see the coil spreads out a bit. Push in again and the coil because closed and big.
Play around.
This is a great way to play with colour. What goes with purple? Try a ‘swatch’ of coil using purple and all the other colours you think will look good. It takes almost no time for such a colour swatch and if you don’t like it you can use the coil in something where it will probably work.
Please use this technique and make wonderful artisan jewellery. If you choose to add this text to your book, please don’t do it:   write it up using your own words.  Thanks.   Helene…

Notes to Self – #10 – I’m EXCITED – Does it Show?

All last week I’ve been jumpy with excitement: like a kid waiting for Santa Claus. I had butterflies in residence in my tummy. All I could think about was the wirework class, an all-day one, on Thursday next.

I got to bed late – well, early this morning really. And I slept for almost 10 hours. I awoke feeling refreshed, noteworthy in itself, entered the PigPen ready for work. Made a new necklace and earrings, cleared out a lot of emails. worked on my financials (I hate them so again it is worthy of note).

Then it happened.

My sister sent me an email from work and she reminded me of the wireworking class.

I had actually forgotten all about that class!! Imagine my surprise! But now the butterflies are back and I am getting tools I’ll need together. I keep reminding myself that I need to take a hair blower. Do you still use those. These days our hair is kept pretty short so we don’t really use one any more but for some reason, maybe the packrat part of me, we held onto one.

Oh, and then I had to make some business cards. I want to be remembered when you meet me. On paper I’m fairly calm. But meeting face to face is different. I can turn on the charm and the wit but sometimes the skill deserts me. So – I wire on a small glass bead to each card. It’s time consuming but I get remembered. You see? I need to get busy with the business cards.

And I still have to get the usual work done, too. I’m just flitting from one thing to the next and nothing is being finished. Not too good, I guess.

But the Canadian Bead Oasis Show sets up on Thursday and is open to the public on Friday to Sunday at the Toronto Metro Convention Centre on Front Street – right across the street from the CBC building. Entrance fee is a reasonable $8.00 CAD and $12.00 CAD for the whole weekend. There are over 50 exhibitors in the merchant mall and the stuff they have is marvellous to a beader. Such pretty colours and textures. The ‘undergarments’ or findings are well represented, too. The new ‘thingy’s’ can be found and the latest books and magazines.

Check out their website.

And I’m going to a class!!

Notes to Self – #11 – Flourishing Seeds of Doubt

We have all been great artists at one time in our life. Then we were told we were doing it wrong and gradually we came to believe we weren’t artists at all. It’s such a waste of good raw talent. Because we as tiny human beings didn’t know what we can and cannot do, we experimented. It was the perfect, fertile ground for the seeds of doubt to be planted in. And they grew and flourished.

We need to get back to that willingness to experiment and try new things; that state of mind where we suspend the inner chatter telling us we can’t do it and ignoring the external chatter of people telling us it isn’t possible.

We all carry around ‘baggage’ and the older we are the more baggage we carry. It is our life’s experiences, good and bad, that are the spices we flavour our work with.

We are no longer those freedom filled tots. As we add on the years we add on the responsibilities: a teen is responsible enough to become a baby sitter or a part time cashier. A 20-something can take on more responsibility in the workplace and in their newly acquired home life. Our mind is busy with all that responsibility so it is just easier to believe we can’t do something.

We all go through a ‘mid-life crisis.’ For some it happens at age 30, for others it’s 40 and for some it is the half-century mark. Grandma Moses was 80 when she decided to just paint what she liked. Today everybody knows Grandma Moses. There are a few of us who know how to remain in that inquiring frame of mind that they had when they were babies at the same time they juggle jobs, sweethearts, duties.

What makes these few so different is that they never stop asking ‘why’ and ‘how.’ Every day they work at their ‘craft.’ Good artists enter their studio every day and do something to further their work. Great writers carve out a portion of every day when they are alone to write. Artists have studios, Mark Twain had a shed with a gorgeous view.

It is very hard work and takes a great deal of discipline: and it is exhausting. Some disappear in a bottle, or tend a garden: my favourite is Robert Bateman’s way of recharging his batteries. He has embraced the notion that, when doing anything, it’s best to include a nap. Every afternoon, no matter what great person phones or visits, for a couple of hours he is curled up and taking an uninterrupted nap.

Not every day do you feel inspired so you have to be doing something in your medium. For writers it is writing: some set themselves a minimum of XXX words. For educators, it’s reading and studying to better be prepared to mold young minds.

What does an artist do? Keeps a sketch book. And in the sketch book, if s/he lets you peek, are rough drawings, notes about colours and feelings, ideas,  loosening up exercises.  da Vinci’s sketch books are famous. Make your sketch book as diverse and as interesting, or even more so.

That’s what I think … Helene…

Design Play – Lesson 4 – Freeing Our Inner Artist

Have you recognized the reason for last couple of exercises?  We all have an artist gene in us. The problem is that, from an early age we’ve been told that we have no talent; and worse still, we believed it. We may not paint like Holbein (Elizabeth I portraits) but there’s a little Picasso or Mondrian in all of us. da Vinci kept sketch books, too.

Here I present a couple of exercises that will further loosen us up. They need not be done every time you sit down to create: they are to help you get into ‘the zone,’ that magic place where you find inspiration.

Did you do finger painting when you were a child? My first finger painting was at the age of 40!!

1 – Get some cheap finger paints – raid your tiny tot’s play cupboard or hit the crafts store, it doesn’t matter. Just make sure it’s cheap.

2 – Get a brown paper bag – a big one. Cut along one long side and across the bottom and smooth it out flat.

3 – Put on an apron – tie it around your neck. This exercise is supposed to cost little or no money so wear your junky jeans and an apron. No apron in the house? Tuck a tea towel in the collar of your shirt.

4 – Remove your rings and bracelets and watches.  If you have an expensive manicure, put on rubber gloves. Turn on the CD player (is that old technology?). Put on some of your favourite music.

5 – Blop a plop of paint on the brown paper. Get dirty. Stick your hands into that plop of paint and move them around. Let the music determine which way your hands will move. Try moving your hands independently: move your left hand up and your right hand across. Let one hand squiggle and the other hand cirle. Use the backs of your hands. Just play.

6 – Fold over a dry corner into the wet paint. It looks like a Rorschach test, doesn’t it.

7 – Fold your wet painting so a wet bit gets folded onto another wet bit.

8 – Stand back. Remove all your protective layers, put on your jewellery. Let the music play. And let the paint dry.

9 – Tomorrow take another look at your finger painting. Can you see the shapes and forms you created?  Try translating that to your sketch book by holding your pencil loosely and looking only at the painted paper bag: don’t look down, just look at your finger painting piece. You should save this exercise but it needs to be kept flat – no folding it once it is dry. Put it in your portfolio case.

These exercises will help to loosen you up so that when you combine your notes and rough sketches when your “Muse is upon you,” you will make inspired works of art.

Did you ever just scribble? I mean, within living memory. Not the time when you scribbled all over the wall with crayons or annotated Daddy’s big books with your ‘art’ when you were 2 years old.

1 – Get another brown paper bag and open it up as before. Get a drawing pencil, not too sharp, or an HB pencil from your child’s pencil box.

2 – Hold the pencil loosely and start scribbling: your intention is just to move the pencil and it doesn’t matter if it’s up or across or squiggly or broad. Just move the pencil.

3 – If you are very tense, hold the pencil in a fist and press hard. If you are feeling lighthearted today, lucky you, hold the pencil as loosely as possible. If you are just feeling ‘blah’, try different surfaces of the lead: make wide lines using the side of the lead and skinny lines using the tip of the pencil. Make light lines and dark lines. Make as many different impressions as you can think of.

4 – Switch hands and hold the pencil in the non-dominant hand. Feels remarkably different, doesn’t it!

5 – Draw sweeping circles, then little circles. Draw angles and triangles and squares and so on. Make them big and make them small. Did you notice a shift in mood as you went from circles to angles? Rounded lines and shapes are calming while angled lines and shapes are aggressive and can make you tense up.

6 – Keep working that pencil until you feel all your aggression and upset is gone. If you started happy you should end still feeling happy.

7 – Make quick notes about how you achieved some of the effects, how you felt while you scribbled. Suggest what would do well when drawing trees or houses or stones or …

Work with all these exercises, including those from earlier lessons, and save your work. This exercise book is not intended to be anything but private notes and observations, exercises and sketches. These ‘scribblings’ can be the forerunner of the work to come but in and of itself is the grunt work behind the scenes. Your dedication to these exercises will determine your success: the more you do the better work you will produce.

September Phoenix

I think I’ve mentioned somewhere that I have signed up for a year long project: Bead Journal Project ’08. I had to decide what form the ‘journal’ would take: many took it literally and are making page style items. For me it was a good excuse to make some jewellery: and September is a bracelet, a cuff shape in colours evocative of Spain. My sister, who wants to lose weight, save money and go to Spain has commissioned the piece. I’ve written an article about it. 

My hands suffered mightily because I decided to use memory wire – something I knew would be challenging. I had no idea how challenging it would be!!

beads + memory wire + crimp tubes = disaster

beads + memory wire + crimp tubes = disaster

Memory wire has a mind of its own and that is the beauty of it: it always returns to its original shape. It’s strength is also its weakness: it always returns to its original shape. Well, I finally got one length into a cuff shape with crimp tubes holding it. I let it sit for 24 hours. The next day I started to wrap it with copper wire and the whole thing exploded in my face: so much for the holding power of crimp tubes. And my hands hurt so badly from the effort of getting it into the cuff shape that all I could do was cry: I was defeated.

I HATE  to lose an argument, as people who know me can attest. But losing to a length of wire??!?! It cannot happen!!


I cut 2 lengths of memory wire and began wrapping and adding beads that tied the 2 pieces together like ribs. At one end of each wire I formed a loop. I intend on making several of these ribs before adding the real embellishment: wood beads wrapped with

2 lengths of memory wire held together with bead and wire ribs

2 lengths of memory wire held together with bead and wire ribs

 embroidery floss. I cannot say just what the final design will look like because my fav way to design is doing the thing and letting serendipity reign. Posts like this are the notes that will be the roadmap of the design.


Well, you know, as I was adding my scribbles about this method I had an eureka moment. The flash of light over my head was blinding. I was in awe. I was speechless. …


The end loops of the rib style cuff shape was what gave me that new idea.  I took another length of memory wire, made a loop at each end, then – are you ready?! – I joined the 2 loops. So simple.


memory wire + round nose pliers = interesting shape

memory wire + round nose pliers = interesting shape

It will work only as long as it takes to get some design elements into it to help keep its shape. The start of this shape will see copper wire lacing the 2 loops together.


When I told Marg about my trials and their outcome she was well pleased: instead of 1 bracelet she will be getting 2. One will be her everyday cuff and the other will be her Sunday Best cuff.


The ‘rib cuff’ will be the ‘Spanish Rib’ cuff while the second will be known as the ‘Spanish Phoenix’ cuff.


I’ll let you know of my progress, so please check back often.


Design Play – Lesson 3 – More Drawing

Good afternoon. Today I’d like you to take a picture from a book or pamphlet and turn it upside down. Now, with the top of the picture closest to you, draw what you see. Don’t waste your time and energy worrying about making a mistake. It is hoped you will make mistakes, many mistakes so you might as well start here.

Sketch what you see, not what your mind tells you it should be. And don’t get all caught up in the fine details. Right now you are doing a rough sketch so just the outline and maybe a couple of important lines in the centre. No cheating. Don’t turn the image right way up to check your progress.

Now, turn both your sketch and the original picture right way round. If you haven’t been checking as you sketched, you will see a similar rough picture that you drew.

Try this technique several times and whenever you get ‘artist’s block’: It loosens up your brain muscles and gets you into the right brain artsy frame of mind.