5/01/2024

Nostalgia - The mystery zebra

Some years ago when I still did the "Finds of the week" posts, I had some called "I'm a collector" in which I shared vintage items. Over time my collections have mostly stopped growing due to different reasons, but they are still there and still loved. I also have vintage items, some inherited, some gifts, some from fleamarkets, some more interesting than others. So I thought it could be fun to share some of them every, now and then and tell their story.

Today I have brought a little mystery friend from my Steiff collection.
Steiff has always been known to make promotional items, from an aphid for a chemical company to a little teddy for cough syrup, but also cartoon characters including Mickey Mouse.


This little fellow is a zebra as you can see. That isn't unusual of course, but unlike its zebra pal with whom it shares the stock number, its cotton velvet fur doesn't have only black or brown stripes (yes, even the "ordinary" Steiff zebras don't all have the same color) ...



... but part of its stripes are green. Huh?



The green is not painted over the original stripes and it is not limited to individual parts of the zebra, in some spots you can see it go across the seams.


Was the color sprayed on maybe? Why green? And why not all the stripes?
Then of course there's also the word "arco" on both hips.



I've tried more than once, but couldn't find out anything. So I finally turned to expert Steiffgal hoping she would be able to help me. She let me know that there was a picture of the arco zebra in a product guide I don't own, but all it said there was that it was from 1954 and that it was a promotional item for "Arco".
I had figured as much, but
what is or was "arco"? Is it a brand, is it a company name? What did it have to do with the color green?
Interesting is also that the zebra in the book is described as being green and white and also looks that way in the photo, no brown to see, while mine just has some green areas and the green seems to be brighter.
Did that depend on the person applying the stripes or did it have to do with the production process?

Unfortunately I don't have any possibility to find out after 70 years, so my little zebra is going to stay a mystery.
And why do I have the feeling it's laughing at me? ;-)


4/09/2024

Charade - a small homage of mine

It's really incredible that I have never used a quote from this movie when I still did the quotes of the week because it is one of my all time favorites.
Cary Grant? Audrey Hepburn? Excitement, mystery, love, and wit? I'm in, thank you very much.
I'm of course talking about Charade from 1963, and if you have never seen that movie, but still want to, you should stop reading or looking. Spoiler alert!

In short, Audrey Hepburn - Reggie - discovers that her husband, whom she has decided to divorce because it's always secrecy and lies with him, is not only dead, but has also left her nothing but an empty flat and a few things in a small bag.
He also happens to have been a thief who stole from his accomplices, and now those are chasing after her because they are convinced that she has the stolen money or at least knows where it is. Throw in a fake agent and Cary Grant as the suspicious helper, whom she can never be sure about although she has fallen in love with him, put them all in 1960s Paris, and you're in for a wild ride - "the best Hitchcock movie that Hitchcock never made".

For a "movie showcase" in one of my Facebook sales groups, we were supposed to design pieces inspired by movies, and Charade was the second one to pop into my mind (the first one was Jaws, and maybe I'll do another post about what I made based on that).
All I could think was "stamps" and "Eiffel Tower", and without planning exactly how I wanted to put those two together, I got myself some Eiffel Tower charms and pulled out the family's old stamp collection.
You see, Reggie's husband used the gold to buy three very rare and valuable stamps which are on an envelope for everyone to see, but it takes them the whole movie through to realize it.
By then, Reggie has given the stamps to her friend's little son who is a collector (just like my siblings and I used to be as kids), and he has traded them with a stamp dealer. It's one of my favorite scenes of the movie how they go to the shop and the dealer describes each stamp lovingly before he gives them back saying that he had already waited for them because he knew it had to be a mistake.
When Reggie says that she's sorry, he says: "Oh no. For a few minutes, they were mine. That's enough."
My collector's heart is really feeling these words, every time again.

I had thought it would be easier to pick stamps from the collection that would go well together in color and design for the right feel, but not only didn't I want to break up some of the series, I also thought huge and colorful stamps with astronauts or exotic animals wouldn't quite work in this design ;-)
I finally picked three stamps, and after a failed first attempt, which made me do a few things a little differently the second time, it was really fun to work on this pendant. It's one of the pieces that is not just an ordinary design to me, but something very personal. If you have watched a movie often, do you also have memories of the circumstances when watching it or of the emotions?

If the pendant stays with me, which it probably will as I doubt that it evokes the same feelings in others, it will still be useful to remember what I learned from making it - how to seal the stamps, how to attach them, and more.

By the way, here's an article about the wonderful scene with the stamp dealer. I'm not the only one who loves it.
And here's another one explaining a bit about the stamps they used in the movie which is actually very interesting.





3/24/2024

What do you mean - chipped?

A few weeks ago, Rachel from The Glass Cavern posted two pictures on Facebook, of an ammonite with inlays of Bello opal (lab-created). I have admired them more than once - and not just the ammonites, Rachel makes beautiful lampwork and so much more -, but I'm trying to use what is in my stash and my seed bead orders are bad enough, so I always resisted.

This ammonite was a little different, though. While polishing it, a little accident happened and a bit got chipped off the edge. Not wanting it to end up in a drawer, Rachel posted it asking if a wire wrapper or bezel maker was interested.
I'll admit that I jumped on the chance like a hawk on a mouse although I had no idea at all for it at first and only a very vague one minutes later. When the ammonite arrived, that idea had already decided to leave my brain because I hadn't written it down.


So I had to come up with a new idea and I decided to try something really new to me. Ammonites are of course flat on top, but not at the bottom, and from another pendant I knew that it could be a little difficult to bead a good bezel for it.

How about adding some of the beading foundation at the bottom and level the fossil out? How about making that piece a little bigger and then bead on it? Oh, or how about adding layers of beading foundation to both level out the bottom and "complete" the ammonite, so I could bead a bezel all around that and have an even better chance to hide the chipped edge?
I really had to wing this, but I was pleasantly surprised when it worked out just the way I had hoped.

After beading the bezel in bronze and golden seed beads, I had to fill up that extra space somehow. I decided on a organic look with a mix of golden size 11 and 15 seed beads, making one layer with seed beads sewn on individually and going through all of the layers of beading foundation, then I added some extra beads on top.
There is a two row edging of the golden beads all around and an embellishment with garnet beads only around the ammonite itself. For the garnets I chose different sizes, so some sit lower, some higher to repeat the organic feel of the golden addition.

I really struggled with a bail for this one.
Due to the spiral, the pendant isn't symmetrical, even if you may not notice that at first glance, and I wasn't sure if I wanted a very simple bail like peyote or herringbone or something a bit flashier like a triangle peyote bail.
To be honest, my preference would have been no bail at all or rather a hidden one (you may have noticed that before in my bead pendants, no matter if loomed, woven or embroidered), and after working out the best way, I did that in the end.


P.S. As usual, I had a hard time not to add dangles, but I think they really wouldn't worked for this one.

3/11/2024

Fluttering into spring

Ever since my friend Michelle opened her Spoonflower shop, I have been thinking about using one of her fabric designs in one of my jewelry designs.
If you don't know Spoonflower, the platform offers "premium fabric, wallpaper and home decor that's printed on demand with unique designs from independent artists worldwide".
This was my first personal experience with Spoonflower although I first heard of it years ago.
All I knew was that I wanted to use my favorite of Michelle's designs, the "Whimsical Watercolor Wildflowers on Turquoise", but obviously only a very small part of it as it is not a miniature pattern. Not knowing what to expect, I ordered just a swatch to see what I could be doing with it and chose a sturdy cotton which would make a solid backing for embroidering on it. At that point, it was just a vague plan, I hadn't worked out any details at all.

By the time the swatch arrived, I had thought about it some more. For a wire wrapped octopus piece (that I haven't shown here, it's a component for a friend's basket weaving project) I had got a number of large flat copper rings (how is it I can never order just one thing?) ... ah, you remember my last post with the curtain ring? Yes, this time I would be using a different kind of "frame".
The rings are large enough to pick a nice part of the pattern and to add something of my own - I still hadn't determined what -  and they are lighter in weight if someone doesn't like heavier pendants.

Step 1 - prepare the "canvas".
I didn't cover the copper ring completely with the beaded bezel to achieve the look of a passepartout.


Step 2 - embroider small dew drops on the plants. That was easy.

Step 3 ... step 3 ... step 3 ... something to sit in the empty space above the plant. A dragonfly. A fairy. A butterfly!
That was the right choice for more than one reason (but that will be a different story).
For a second I thought about embroidering it directly on the fabric, but then I knew I wanted it to be 3D (which also has to do with that other story).

So I bead embroidered a pair of wings in colors that would complement the background using silver lined beads for some sparkle and added them to a small beaded body.
Lastly, I gave my butterfly two little winged buddies.


A simple bail and my pendant was finished :-)



2/15/2024

Moon web

"Your January/February challenge is to make something that depicts your zodiac sign." Thank you, JAC challenge mistress. I had made a crab before once, but not with signs as inspiration, and a quick search on my blog informed me that I was indeed never inspired by my zodiac sign.

I had no idea at all at first, but then I found a piece of blue fabric that has been around since I first started selling jewelry. A friend of mine who sewed visited and we went to the "Sewing World" in town, a shop for fabric, sewing machines, haberdashery, picked a dark blue fabric with big golden stars, and she made me a bunch of jewelry bags from it. I used part of the fabric for backgrounds in photos and as a "shawl" for Jo, my manikin head, then eventually it got stashed away.
When I found it now, the backside without the stars screamed night sky at me and inspired me to go look for one of my metal curtain rings.
I thought I had shown my first bead embroidery piece using one of those rings, but obviously I only did on the gallery page, so here it is. It was a new interpretation of one of my favorite HeatherCats, Silhouette Cat.


I glued the curtain ring on, beaded the bezel, and embroidered the scene which sounds a lot easier than it was because the ring is quite massive. Let me assure you that I learned nothing from that for the challenge piece.
It would be smarter to embroider the scene without the ring getting in the way and then glue it on and do the bezel, but the scene would have to be perfect in size for that to work. Maybe I will think of trying that the next time.

My plan had been to embroider the constellation for Cancer using a star bead for the biggest star, a bigger seed bead for the smaller one, and crystals for the others.
When I had finished that, however, I hated every bit of it. It looked like a weird clock, squeezed into the space. I cut it up again and thought I'd just use the ring for another night scene and start a completely new challenge piece.

Choosing a bigger cat eye cab for the full moon is a nod to the most beautiful perigee I ever experienced, when the moon on our way to work was so big that it felt as if we could drive right into it. It was really magic.
What next?
I decided on a spider web, something else I have been fascinated with forever. With spider, of course.
Then it struck me. How about a tiny cancer constellation next to the moon that Cancerians are so often drawn to ...

Voilà, my challenge pendant.
My muse works in mysterious ways sometimes.

1/24/2024

Another bead soup story

"Bead soup doesn't scare me." I wrote that in the post about the winter comet ornament in my advent calendar.
Not even if it's ten years old, actually probably even older because I mixed it in my early bead looming days,
for a project that never happened.
Every, now and then I picked beads from it, for the winter comet and for a pair of white elephant earrings, for example.

It was time to empty that little tin and I did it.
I had already had the plan to try out folded peyote earrings in a bead soup and a smaller size than the last ones, and I managed to use up the whole soup with the addition of a few more of the silver lined crystal beads.
I made four folded peyote components in two different sizes and turned one pair into earrings by hanging them from little beaded hearts.


Then I started playing with the second pair. I thought I could do something new with them (new to me, just because I haven't seen it doesn't mean it doesn't exist). After breaking off a few end beads I could join the two components with beads and turn it into a folded peyote diamond.
Now what?
Well, in the same tin there was a little spike thingy with crystals that I improvised a few months ago and had just turned into a dangle with some crystal rondelles a few days before.
I attached it to the diamond and actually like it. It has a kind of archaic fantasy look to me now. What do you see in it?

1/15/2024

Erm, Happy New Year?

I know, I know, I'm a bit late. I can only hope you'll forgive me - happy New Year to all of you!
Have you already broken the first of your resolutions for 2024?
I haven't, but that's simply because I have given up on resolutions a long time ago. I don't like setting myself up for failure like that ;-)

It's hard enough for me to start into this year after my time off work. As usual when having more time to myself than just my weekends, I snapped right back into my normal rhythm, meaning staying awake into the wee hours of the morning, sleeping as long as the cats allowed me to, maybe going back to bed after their first, second, and third breakfasts - obviously they are hobbit cats - or having a glorious nap in the middle of the day. I only needed my alarm clock, so I would take out the trash out in time or for one of my rare morning appointments. It was a sad moment when I turned on the alarm clock on Sunday night before I had to start working again, and after more than a week I am still struggling with it.

Somehow that also put a bit of a damper on my creativity. That doesn't mean I haven't done anything this year yet.
A new little chicken, Friedrun, picked a nest for herself and her triplets Huey, Dewey, and Louie (yes, named after ducks).



Two bead embroidered autumn suns made me dig into my old stash once again, this time for the beautiful frosted carnelian beads.


Then, however, I started working again and, creatively seen, took a very easy way out by beading more folded peyote earrings in different color combinations. Actually, I surprised myself by having the patience for so many, but they were the perfect "background beading" (meaning I only had to concentrate on the colors, not so much on the technique which seems to have made its way into my brain at last) while I am contemplating my next big project for which I have an idea, but am still looking for the best way to do it.




There would even have been a blue version that had been suggested, but I didn't have enough blue beads left for a pair of earrings. I do have a lot of grey ...
What do you think, how many more folded peyote earrings will there be before my muse will finally give me that spark that I need to get started on the next biggie? ;-)