Light tents and cat hair and shadows and bright lamps ...

(... please sing to the tune of "My Favorite Things" from "The Sound of Music").
Only these are not necessarily my favorite things. The May/June blog carnival at the Jewelry Artisans Community has the topic "Photography". What is your photo setup, what backgrounds do you like, how do you edit your pictures, what camera do you use?

When I started out taking digital pictures - that was before I had an online shop - I had an HP camera. I don't remember the model, but I bought it used from another university employee. We met in the dark of the morning like agents on a bridge and exchanged the goods. Even digital compact cameras were still very expensive back then, even used ones.
Eventually my camera started turning all pictures a lovely purple where there was no purple. I'll never forget how a jewelry forum member told me I was trying to milk a dead dinosaur. I still had hopes that with my finding out the secrets of white balance and exposure I would find the magic cure and that it was my fault, but alas, that wasn't the problem. I had to say goodbye.
I got my Canon PowerShot SX100IS almost exactly 11 years ago and - knock on wood - I'm still quite happy with it. Of course it has one or the other problem, but those are usually things that I can deal with in photo editing.
I use an online editor called PicMonkey. I used to edit with Picnik, but they left me (and everyone else meaning they closed down to move on to other stuff). PicMonkey had a lot of features that were similar to Picnik, so I didn't have to learn everything all over again. I am completely clueless about for example Photoshop or Gimp or what else is out there, so I hope the Monkey will stay with me.

Now let's get to my photo setup which is almost as old as my camera and consists of a light tent, two daylight lamps, white cardboard, a smaller black acrylic glass stand and a bigger black acrylic glass disk (actually I have a smaller light tent as well which is staring down at me from top of the cabinet next to me, but I can't remember why I ever got it, so I'll pretend it's not there, shhh).
That should already tell you something about my favorite background. I like a black background although I took my first pictures on a white one (so my HP camera could turn that purple as well). The stand is already my second one. I used a lot of props when I had the first one, deco rocks and glasses and bowls, and I wasn't very careful with it, so it got scratches which I then had to edit out. Very annoying.
I wasn't that much better with the second one, also it was too small for some of my big necklaces, so it now serves the purpose of holding the black disk which doesn't completely fit into my tent as you can see.

Yes, my light tent IS sagging. I tend to store stuff on it like my fake grass that I use for critter pictures. In fact I cleared some stuff off to take this picture.
Maybe you are now surprised about those shadows and wonder how I deal with them when taking photos.

This is what I see when I sit in front of my light tent.
You can see the light coming through the fabric on the left and you see something darker in the middle and something on the right.
I said part of my setup is white cardboard. The tent came with some different fabric backgrounds, but we didn't get along. I also never got used to the fabric you could attach to the front. It had just a small space in the center for you to put your camera through. As you can see, I tried it out, that's why there's velcro along the opening which is only good for catching cat hair now.
Instead I put a bigger piece of cardboard inside which covers the back and the top of the tent and thus makes for a nicer reflection in the acrylic glass. I also have a smaller one on the right because the combination of reflection and light always manages to bring my stained glass windows into the game. By moving the cardboard pieces I can make the shadows look different and always get a diffuse light area on the left, but sometimes, depending on the size of the jewelry, I still have to deal with the "light slits" on the right. That's one occasion for PicMonkey's "Clone" and "Dodge" or "Burn" ... if my beloved "Wrinkle Remover" fails, that is.
I'm doing all of this quite intuitively as I'm absolutely no pro and will never be.

I also want you to meet my trusted friend, the microfiber cloth. Acrylic glass LOVES dust and cat hair. One nanosecond of distraction, and there is both, so I always have one of these cloths around to dust before I take a picture. It usually doesn't get rid of them all because the queue of volunteers is so long that they sometimes shove each other for the chance of getting on that black disk first.
That's where PicMonkey's "Shine Reduce" comes in which I can't find in the new version, though. If that doesn't do it, it's back to the features mentioned above.

I'm sorry if I robbed you of all illusions of my professionalism here ;-) but it's working for me, and that's what it's all about, right? I think these may be the strangest pictures I ever posted in my blog!

What have the other JAC members got to offer?
I'll add the links as soon as I get them.

Jewelry Art by Dawn


Zibbet finds of the week - Hair accessories

I have long hair. It's not down to the butt anymore, but it's long, and there are a few people who wonder why I as an old woman in my mid-50s (their thoughts obviously, not mine) don't get my hair cut off, even more why I just let it go grey now without getting it shaved off first ;-)

Hair accessories always gave me problems. It's not that I don't like them, but not all of them worked for me. Do you know those scrunchies that are always too small to go round your hair three times, but keep slipping down if you only do two rounds? I had a leather barrette that I loved, it was beautiful, but I just couldn't fit my hair in there at the time. And because my hair is quite straight, hair combs liked to fall out of it doing the Wilhelm scream.
That doesn't mean I'm not allowed to look and dream (and feel sad because my favorite velvet hair bow with a little netted pouch for my long hair got lost).
So here are some beautiful accessories from Zibbet sellers for you.

Hand painted yoga headband by Portraits of Elegance

Hot pink chiffon bow baby/toddler/child headband by Personal Touch Gifts

Cold porcelain floral French barrette by Rose Petals

Horse Fans woven headband and bow set by Sweet Pea Kidz Too

Halloween cat ear headband by Old Hippie Heaven

Beaded Kumihimo feather hair clip by The Witch and Mule

Steampunk hair pin with bee by The Steampunk Trunk


Sun ring - Tackle that Art Elements challenge

The latest Art Elements challenge had the topic "summer solstice". Art Elements changed the format for the challenge, it's not an official blog hop anymore, but is in its own Facebook group now. So this is an inofficial post so-to-speak ;-)
Actually I hadn't intended to participate at all this month. I was so busy with my big projects, the box, the doll outfit, and the tiara that I couldn't even work on ideas. It is mere coincidence that this ring fits.

Some years ago a jewelry forum friend of mine made a pair of silver wire macrame spiral earrings and they were beautiful. I'd like to show you, but I can't find a picture of them anymore. I kept going back to the pictures to admire them.
I never learned macrame when I was a kid or teenager although it was the 70s and wall hangings or pot hangers flooded the neighborhoods. I had a little macrame owl hanging from my tote because a friend of mine made them enthusiastically and very well, too. Later I had it hanging over one of my cabinet keys, but eventually the cord broke. I'm absolutely sure that the owl is still somewhere, but I couldn't find it or I would have taken a picture it.
Anyway, when I saw the earrings, I told myself that one day I would try that myself.

Hey, it only took ten years!
Of course I have just learned one knot so far, the square knot, and made one ring with help of this tutorial by CSL Designs. I struggled a lot with getting the knots regular and I messed up about six times having single knots that were a little bigger or smaller and that wouldn't do.
I didn't give up, however, and am quite happy with this try. Joining the ends was a little difficult. That part is not as pretty as I would have liked, so I thought I'd hide them with a bead. I tried some crystals first, but then I went through my stash - yes, that's the Friday stash tackler part in this! - and found this bead with a sun on it that a friend once gave to me.
That's when I thought I could make a little something for the Art Elements challenge after all.

See, sometimes things come to you even if they haven't been planned at all or even inspired by a topic which is the reason why I only have to offer this short blog post.
Time to show my little ring :-)


Oldies but Goodies - June Moon

I'm a June child which I usually blame for loving the moon so much.
June birthstones are the moonstone, the alexandrite and the pearl. I remember being very disappointed as a teenager because for me a pearl wasn't a stone. I would have preferred something sparkly and not so "old". The moonstone was okay, but not really exciting, either. I never even knew about the alexandrite then.
People grow older and learn things, and sometimes the tastes changes with the years, too. I can now appreciate the shimmer of a pearl and a moonstone. I don't know when I found out that moonstones can come in different colors, but I admit that my personal favorite is still the white one because it has such a magic look to me.

For this week's Jewelry Artisans Community Oldies but Goodies Challenge the topic was June moon which left the door wide open for different pieces as we are rather generous about the rules. No one had a June beetle to offer, though ;-)
Instead I present to you a variety of moon inspired pieces of jewelry. Are you game for a trip to the moon with us?

1 and 7 Cat's Wire
2 and 4 Jewelry Art by Dawn
3 and 6 RioRita
5 and 8 My Bijou Life


Headband or tiara?

I think I mentioned it before, when I was a child, we had those plastic disks in several colors which reminded of flowers and which you could connect to each other and build all kinds of things. The most easiest thing to make was a tiara because the different colors were different gems for us.

When I found a metal headband blank in my stash, I didn't think of that, though. I thought of bead embroidery because I had just found another dichroic glass cab. It was a dark blue with green and I had all those bugles in ocean colors lying around and seed beads to go with them and I could add pearls (coins and Biwa) and crystals, oh and those two opalite cabs, too!
Once I had a few bugles on there, however, I didn't like the stripey look together with the rounded shapes of the cabs and beads, so I ripped all of them back out and picked different seed beads instead.

Embroidering took its time, but like bead looming it has a meditative effect on me, so that was okay.
Lately I have been trying to get away from strict symmetry, so this piece isn't symmetrical either as you can tell if you look closely.

Now came the hard part. How to get this piece onto the metal blank? I had a vague idea, but I wasn't sure. The ending of this video tutorial by Lidia Sapronova helped me confirm what I had to do.
First I glued a piece of thicker paper to the bead embroidery strip to strengthen it as the blank itself is very slim. Then I took my ultrasuede, measured and cut two little slits, one on each side a few centimeters from the edge through which I put the ends of the blank. Now I could glue the ultrasuede to the blank which sounds much easier than it was for someone who is as glue challenged as me and then the bead embroidery to the blank and ultrasuede which resulted in some minor cursing.
I just wasn't sure if the glue could really hold all of this together, so when it had dried, I decided that for safety I'd sew all those layers together not just at the edges, but also along the edges of the blank, so that it wouldn't be able to move around in there. Somehow I hadn't expected it to take so long, but I'm still glad I did it.
The last step was of course the edging for which I chose pearly white seed beads to enhance the ocean feeling, sea foam and all that, you know.

There are examples in which both the embroidery and the ultrasuede go all around the metal blank. In my case that means there would have been hair over it and would definitely get tangled in it, so I didn't chose that variation. Also I would have had to add a piece of ultrasuede as the pieces I have wouldn't have been long enough.
In other pieces in there was an extra piece of ultrasuede all around the metal ends, but I admit that I didn't think myself capable of sewing that on and make it look good, too. Don't forget, this was my first attempt at something like this in the first place.

There's no doubt about it, this is no lightweight.
That's not my personal problem with it, however. I have never been that good with those kinds of headbands because I don't like the feeling behind my ears. Also with my straight hair they always slipped down when I looked down. A friend said I should try to attach some combs. I'll have to look into that, but actually I think it looks much better worn as a tiara ...
I deserve a tiara, don't I? And funnily enough worn like that it doesn't slip down even if I curtsy before Mylady Gundel ;-) Seriously, I can look down and it will still stay in my hair.

Now my wardrobe is not exactly very regal, but we'll see. It was another challenge and I did it and am proud of it.

So this is what the finished tiara is looking like from all sides and worn by my model Jacqueline.


Zibbet finds of the week - Random and beautiful #3

Years ago I did two posts I called "Random and beautiful" because I couldn't come up with a theme for the finds of the week. Back then I said I should do that more often, just go on Zibbet, browse, see what catches my eye and share that with you.
Sometimes I think of a theme and am surprised to find fewer items than I would thought, sometimes I struggle to come up with an idea in the first place depending on my own stress level or lack of time.
Today, however, I stumbled on one of those posts and thought, yes, I really should do it more often, so why not start right away? It's not as if I couldn't find enough beautiful items!

It makes for quite an eclectic mix. I have both soft and bold colors for you, a blast from the past, but also something modern, and there are different materials from delicate glass and porcelain to paper and fabric.
What's your favorite?

Vintage French pressed glass cups at Claudy with a dash of nonsense
African wear (choose your colors) by AFSU Women
Vintage Fitz and Floyd peony plate at Peligraphics

"Love" balloon card by No Ditto Design
Evening clutch by berriesDot

"Multiplying Losses: Little Children" quilt by Quilts on the Wild Side


Oldies but Goodies - Beverages

Do you like your drinks hot or cold? Can't you live without coffee, tea, mineral water? Do you have discussions with your friends about the best way to make tea, the perfect lemonade or Gin Tonic? Do you prefer drinking cocoa to eating chocolate if you are sad?
This week's Jewelry Artisans Community Oldies but Goodies Challenge has the topic beverages. What? Jewelry and beverages? Of course! It's amazing what you can see in a piece of jewelry with just a bit of fantasy.
Here's my "tray" with orange juice, coffee and cream, lemonade and latte - pick your drink!

1 My Bijou Life
2 Jewelry Art by Dawn
3 Cat's Wire
4 RioRita


Zibbet finds of the week - Insects

Did you know that there are 100 million of insect species?
Just trying to get your attention here - actually I read that about 1 million species have been described scientifically and that there are estimated 6 to 10 million species. I don't know if that is true, but either way that is a lot.
Of course they are usually much smaller than humans, so I took my looking glass and went to Zibbet to find just a few representatives of those millions of insects.
I'm glad they didn't mind me coming. I have only been stung by a wasp once in my life and that was my own fault. It was a very hot day and I tried to steam wallpaper off a wall when I felt a drop of sweat running down my leg. I wanted to wipe it away, but it had actually been a wasp. That's how I found out that I'm not allergic.
No wasps here now ... enjoy.

"In For The Kill" print by Michael Garbutt Exotic Photography

Original linocut "Grasshoppers" by Anna See

Handmade art glass buggettes - choose your color by Steider Studios

Mechanical gear mantis by Mechanical Handwork

Stained glass "Creativity Scarab" talisman by Jodi Sharp

Dragonfly "Hi!" digital image by Createful Heart Design


Evening gown Dawn - Part 3, The accessories

Thank you if you are back after reading part 1 - the doll and her history - and part 2 - the dress - of this beading project, if you haven't read them, let me explain that this is about a Dawn doll for whom I beaded a dress.
In this post I will describe the matching accessories that I have made for her.

I started out as a jewelry maker, so of course I had to make some jewelry for her. Given the size I didn't have too many possibilities (also because the holes of my 2mm gemstone beads won't play nicely with my needles) although I have to admit that I had contemplated adding some armbands for her upper arms. One is allowed to dream, but it probably would have been a bit much.
Instead I settled on a golden choker in the peyote technique and a two bead Herringbone spiral bangle in the same color. Yes, I did use the black thread on purpose to give the jewelry some contrast on her skin and a bit of an edge.

Next she needed something to wrap in for stepping outside during a break ... if she goes to the opera, theater or a ball. I was growing up with stoles myself and of course shawls are a huge hit even now.
For that open look that knit or crochet stoles have I chose the netting technique to make little bead stole. The beads weren't completely regular and so the stole depending on how I pull it, but that reminds me of the old days as well, so I'm okay with it. I hope so is Dawn.
This piece has black size 15 beads that are partially coated in blue. Not even Dawn manages to buy all her clothing in the same color, but at least the bigger beads in the net match the dress.
The hardest part is putting the stole on her without it hiding too much or sliding off.

Not everyone carries a big tote all the time like myself. Dawn prefers a tiny pouch which is probably just enough for maybe her pink lipstick, a comb and some money. Who ever knows what's in a lady's purse or pouch or clutch, right?
The pouch is worked in peyote technique and has a little golden strap, so she can hold it or let it hang from her wrist.

So far it was rather easy, but now I came to the last and ultimate challenge - the shoes. I don't have any doll shoes that would fit Dawn. Her feet are too small for Barbie or even Francie shoes.
Heels would have been difficult to do. Then I remembered a scene from the book "An Infamous Army" by Georgette Heyer about a lady in the early 19th century who wore open sandals with golden straps and color on her toe nails, ooooh, the scandal!
Sandals, there was an idea.

It sounded much easier than it actually was, though. The sole was easy enough to make, I used the same black beads as in the stole, in brick stitch technique. Now just a strap and we were good to go, right? Wrong. The sandal kept slipping off her feet.
If you have Barbie dolls, you are used to some shoes falling off feet all the time. Some of the more expensive ones you may not even put on to avoid shoe splits, you just put them next to the doll (yes, Barbie shoes can be expensive because children lost them all the time, I know what I'm talking about, I used to be one of those children). The feet may be a little too wide - on the old hard bodies - or a little too slim or too slippery - older shoes on soft vinyl feet - or or or ...
Of course Dawn will be in a glass cabinet and not walk around much (I hope because the thought is a little scary, also her dress isn't really made for walking! ;-)), but I wanted those sandals to sit right, anyway.

Another try. Two golden straps, one in front, one in the back. No joke, I broke single beads in the first four soles trying to attach the straps safely. I know there's not much room in a size 15 bead, but this was getting ridiculous. Did it work, though? No, the sandal still kept slipping off.
Dawn, you are not Cinderella and there's no prince around the corner, would you please not lose your shoe??
So I tried to make the sole with size 11s instead, and I added one strap in front and two in the back. The sole didn't look quite as nice, though, the attempt at a heel looked kind of cute, but wouldn't hold up the way I wanted it, and in the end ... guess what? The sandal slipped off. Aaaaaaaaaaaaargh.
New idea, new plan. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Try beads and wire. Nope.
The beads and wire brought me back to one of the early plans, though, with a little adjustment.
Tenth time lucky, right? (I know it's originally third time, but obviously that didn't work for me.)
Here you go, a small strap in front, a cross over strap going around the ankle and attached to the sole in the back finally did the trick.

I don't have pink nail polish, but I'm thinking about getting one that matches her lipstick.
So here's Dawn in her complete evening outfit now, ready to go out and have some fun ... at the opening of an exhibition of, erm, giant cat sculptures? ;-)
The last picture is to show you how small Dawn really is, compared to the step.


Oldies but Goodies - Love

I think I'll let this song speak today that one of our members posted for the new Jewelry Artisans Community Oldies but Goodies Challenge. Actually I think the world would have needed more love for a long time, maybe then we wouldn't be where we are right now. Of course there are always things you can't avoid like a natural disaster, but even in these cases we are often enough guilty of messing things up extra big.

I hope you'll have some love in your life today.

1 Cat's Wire
2 Jewelry Art by Dawn
3 The Crafty Chimp
4 RioRita


Evening gown Dawn - Part 2, The dress

As promised in part 1 (for those who haven't seen part 1, it tells you a little more about the Dawn dolls that were produced from 1970 to 1973), I'll be telling you everything about Dawn's new dress now.

Like so many fashion dolls, especially in those days, Dawn is a curvy lady.
In my projects for Barbie and Christie I avoided that problem by making them Flappers, there would be no waist and that also meant I could bead loom the dresses. At the time I hardly did any off loom beading. Francie is not as curvy and beside that her hippie outfit was made up of a top and a skirt, but even so the skirt was a bit of a problem at the waist.

I didn't want to turn Dawn into another Flapper, but I wanted to let her show off her curves, at least a little. That's when I started the wedding dress that I mentioned in part 1. That dress had a rather tight bodice, but a wide skirt with a train. After I had decided to cut it off, I knew that I wanted to go a different path with the new dress.
For a minute I had a happy summer dress in mind, but the happy summer colors were all size 15 and this would be my first try at this. I didn't have to punish myself that much.

No, Dawn would get an evening gown instead inspired by one of my favorite Barbie dresses - #982 Solo in the Spotlight. Of course it wouldn't be black and it would not have ruffles at the bottom and it would probably have straps, but other than that it would totally be "Solo" ;-)

Picture from "Sarah Sink Eames: Barbie Fashion, Volume 1, 1959 - 1967"

Since I already messed up measurements for a bead loomed dress with a bodice before (no worries, Francie, I finally got plans for you, too!), Herringbone was the choice of technique this time.

The choice of beads was easy. I still had my gunmetal AB beads out from working on the box lid and the color would surely go beautifully with Dawn's blond hair. Also I wasn't sure how many beads I would need, but knew I definitely had enough of those. They would look lovely with the size 15 yellow gold beads I had spontaneously included in my last bead order, too.

As I would bead the dress directly onto the doll, I started at the waist. Being the slimmest point it helped me with the first rows without having them slide around too much. First I worked my way up for the bodice. Have I mentioned how curvy Dawn is? ;-) You can tell from this picture. Even though the bodice was not slipping, I chose the safe side and added some peyote straps.

Once the bodice was done, I worked from the waist downward. This time I had to deal with Dawn's hips and butt. Quite the hourglass figure as you can see. I didn't manage to do it right at the first shot or the the second ... in fact that's the area I had to rip out again a few times before I finally did her body justice.
A nice side effect was that, while the loose legs were not (yet?) in danger to fall off, they don't even have a chance now because the dress holds it all together.

So far it still resembled "Solo", but instead of a complete mermaid style I beaded a straight line all the way down meaning there were no golden stripes anymore.

I couldn't leave it at that, a striped area would have looked a little strange. Also I love fringe! I didn't have enough beads anymore to make the fringe all golden, so I made it in a mix of blue AB and golden instead.
Do you think Dawn is looking happy so far?

Next are the accessories. At the time that I'm writing this post, the shoes are still missing and while I have a few ideas, I'm not sure I found the perfect yet, so there will be a part 3 for the accessories later. Please bear with me!


Zibbet finds of the week - Weather

"I can't stand the heat!" "Look, what we woke up to today, snow!" "The rain is driving me crazy!"
I read that just the other day from three friends in three different countries (all of them in the Northern Hemisphere). Weather, huh?
These posts inspired me to look for weather on Zibbet and this is what I found.

Parisian ladies on a rainy day digital collage greeting card by Cards by Colette

Large smiling sun by Having An Art Attack

Snow covered barn painting by Creations by Bevie

Spiral sun round ornament by Breath of the Dragon

Large shark waterproof rain coat with hood by Iggy Fashions/Spoiled Bratzwear

Storm's a comin' painting by ArtLife