Gift #1028: Crafty Plans

These past few weeks have been quite hectic.  I had a presentation to prepare for at work and that’s been consuming every spare moment.  I gave it yesterday and felt an incredible weight lift from my shoulders and it felt weird this evening.  I kept feeling like I needed to work on my speech and had to remind myself several times that it’s over and I can spend my time with other things.  There’s still lots to do.  Last week I helped a friend make cards for her holiday open house.  I made eight cards in about two days.  It was intense but fun.

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She brough over the stamps and supplies and I just had fun creating Halloween and Christmas cards.  I’ll share them soon.

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From there I’ve moved directly into creating cards for a publication.  The due date is Oct 1st so they’ve got to get in the mail by Monday.  It will be a busy weekend getting those finished up.

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I’ve also been studying the Sept. Art Bead Scene artwork and have been eyeing some beads to create a necklace.  I wasn’t planning to participate because the month is so busy, but I ordered some beads from Heather Powers that have beautiful fall colors and I’d love to use them to create an early fall necklace.  Aubergine purple is my favorite color at the moment and I want it everywhere – my jewelry, clothes, even my hair.  I’m a bit behind in my personal calendar artwork challenges and have August’s layout on the floor as I debate how to put it together.  Then I’ll need to attack September (which has mushrooms and turkey tails!)

About two weeks ago I signed up for a Halloween knitting swap with a group online called Tiny Owl Knits.  It’s a wonderful group of knitters and we have swaps each Halloween and Christmas.  Because it’s Tiny Owl Knits, we call our swap “Owl-o-ween”.  Isn’t that cute?  We need to include a hand-made item and a treat and then any extras we’d like to give.   I’ve decided on a theme for my recipient and excitedly picked out a pattern I thought would be perfect.  I had lots of trouble with the gauge and after restarting the mitts 5 times I decided to try something else.  So I moved to an ambitious shawl pattern that I’ve wanted to make for a while.  I had the exact colors I wanted to use in my stash already so I started that this week after swatching.

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I was a bit concerned that I would fall in love with it and want to keep it.  Perhaps in an unconscious bit of sabotage, after knitting on it for days, I found two mistakes I made early on and had to rip out 25 rows of it.  Losing a couple of days of knitting work has now made my deadline highly unlikely, so I’ll be making it still, but not for the swap.  I’ve identified several other patterns that will be more doable and am headed to the knit store tomorrow to see what might match up the best.  Then it’s back to the knitting needles and looking for leaves to start changing.  I noticed more on the way home today.  Hope your weekend is filled with happiness and ordinary miracles.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1027: Happy Fall

Happy Fall to everyone!  Bring on the cooler weather, the pumpkins, the hazy mornings, smoky nights, the tang of decaying leaves, the bright colors swirling around!!  Let’s have warm sweaters and snuggly scarves, boots and fires, hot cider and delicious soups!! Ravens, bats, and spider webs… tombstones, gnarly trees, and full moons! Now heralds the most beautiful season full of everything I love most.  Come Autumn and work your magic all over the world.  Delight and amaze us with everything you are.  My favorite time of year has begun and my soul is alive and dancing with anticipation.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1026: Answers

Earlier this week I heard a song I had not heard before – “Who will Answer” by Ed Ames.  I’m not sure when it was written, probably sometime in the 60s, by the tone of the song.  Here are some of the lyrics.

From the canyons of the mind
We wander on and stumble blindly
Through the often tangled maze
Of starless nights and sunless days
While asking for some kind of clue
Or road to lead us to the truth
But who will answer?

On a strange and distant hill
A young man’s lying very still
His arms will never hold his child
Because a bullet running wild
Has struck him down and now we cry
“Dear God, oh, why, oh, why?”
But who will answer?

If the soul is darkened
By a fear it cannot name
If the mind is baffled
When the rules don’t fit the game
Who will answer?

Is our hope in walnut shells
Worn ’round the neck with temple bells
Or deep within some cloistered walls
Where hooded figures pray in halls?
Or crumbled books on dusty shelves
Or in our stars, or in ourselves
Who will answer?

I was listening raptly waiting for the answer that the lyrist would give.  But then the song ended and there was no answers, just the lingering question and echoes of Hallelujah from the chorus.  It struck me on two levels – one I was amazed by how pertinent the song was for our time.  All the verses (I didn’t include all of them above) were scenes that we hear daily.  Scenes of hoplessness and despair.  And that’s the other take away – it was such a depressing song, a cry of loneliness and abandonment in an impassive world.

It left me feeling fatalistic and upset, until I remembered that we have an answer – it just wasn’t sung in this song.  But a Voice, the first our universe heard, has already spoken into our world, our existence, our lives, our mess, our sorrow.  He has become one of us, faced all the situations this song describes, and has breathed His hope and presence into the brokenness.  Listen to His answer to our heartcry.

But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you.
    O Israel, the one who formed you says,
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
    I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters,
    I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
    you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
    you will not be burned up;
    the flames will not consume you.
For I am the Lord, your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
because you are precious to me.
    You are honored, and I love you.

 Do not be afraid, for I am with you  Is 43:1-5

These are my favorite verses in the Bible, and my pastor read them to us last Sunday at the start of our service.  Completely unrelatedly, I also read them that night (I’m reading through the Bible chronologically and was at Is 43).  Consequently I’ve been thinking on these verses throughout the week and rejoicing in God’s compassion and care of us.  His answer to all our questions is “I’m with you and I love you.”  I hope His words will comfort and bless you in this coming week.
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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1025: Turning leaves

It’s still solidly in the mid to high 80s here with oppressively high humidity levels.  In spite of it feeling like mid summer though, the landscape is starting to color into autumn.  I don’t know what queue these plants are getting – it’s not cooler nights, so it must be the slight decrease in daylight.  Nights are creeping in a bit earlier now and hues scarlet and gold are brushing the leaves.

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As much as I’m excited to see the signs of autumn’s arrival, part of me panics and wants to say “Not yet!!”  I love long, long autumns with slow arrivals and departures and I want to savor the anticipation of my favorite season.  So when I see leaves like this dotting the forest, I have a mixed reaction of utter delight and reluctance.

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These little jewels are harbingers of the coming autumn.  The season is turning and summer grows old now.  Most of the annuals and many of my herbs are spent, beautiful even in their faded glory.  You can almost feel the tension as the earth tilts away from the sun and begins the descent into winter.  Nature is transitioning, holding onto one season but knowing it’s slipping through one’s fingers.  I grow sympathetically restless in spirit too – wanting to hold on but simultaneously desiring to reach out for something more.  Excited for autumn, but dreading the departure of summer; I find myself caught in the shifting seasons.  Evidences of disquiet are all around me – half finished jewelry projects from the summer, nearly finished knitting projects started this spring sit by my side and even now I’m contemplating what fall creations I can cook up.  This weekend I must make Halloween tags for a swap.  Usually there’s nothing so stimulating to my creative juices as Halloween stamps, but I’m paralyzed by the prospect of this swap.   I don’t know what to do; can’t settle on a style, and the stamps aren’t telling me what they want to be.  Hopefully once I hold them in my hands they will create magic that only spooky trees, gravestones, owls, and a full moon can do.  I will watch Great Pumpkin, consider a cup of hot chocolate, and eat a pumpkin treat.  And I will remember that leaves are turning in the forest and ushering in my favorite season.  And I will be content with the ordinary miracles falling all around.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1024: Turkey Tails

This weekend my mom and I were able to spend some time at Eagle Creek park again.  The weather for the past few days has been perfect and we were both keen to spend some time outside enjoying the late summer season.  It has been a long time since we were there last, and it feels even longer than the calendar said it had.  And I desperately needed to have some time in the woods or I felt like I was going to fall apart.  We walked in an area of the park we hadn’t been for a while and enjoyed the quiet, the green, and the trees.  Next time I see them, they will be flushed with autumn’s tones (and I really can’t wait for that!).  But for right now most of the forest is still delightfully green.

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It’s funny how each time something different catches the eye.  I wasn’t even consciously aware of this, but my photos were full of tree trunks covered in turkey tails.  This polypore mushroom is ubiquitous throughout the world and is one of the most common fungi in my area.  I really enjoy their common name, because the striated colors do really resemble turkey tails.  Every set you’ll find is unique – almost like a fingerprint – with endless variation in the colors, thickness and number of stripes, and size.

imageI love the way they provide such character for the decaying logs and make them look quite fanciful.  They also have practical application; for they’ve long been used in traditional Chinese medicine.  There have been studies involving the use of turkey tails to combat cancer and inflammation quite recently too.  I had no idea!

imageA couple of years ago at Spring Mill I became fascinated by all the turkey tails growing in the forest and thought that they would make brilliant inspiration for a crescent-shaped shawl.  The idea has further merit because my favorite hues of brown, green, and cream, and sometimes even pale pink, are in turkey tails.  Imagine designing such a beautiful thing right from nature!  Trying my hand at designing knit patterns is definitely on my bucket list, though right now I still find the idea daunting.  Designing requires a lot of trial and error and the thought of ripping out knitting makes me horrified.  However, with such lovely inspiration, I think I could be persuaded to try.

imageI hope inspiration and beauty is all around you this weekend.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1023: August Art Bead Scene

It’s the end of another month, and that brings us to the Art Bead Scene’s monthly challenge to create jewelry based on their selected art.  This month we had “Park Near Lu” by Paul  Klee.

Here is the description included in the introduction. “The picture reflects his personal condition at the time. The branches are bare and devoid of leaves, as in winter. But “Park near Lu.” is not a winter picture. There is a contrast between the hard black bar strokes that represent the branches and the bright colour tonality of the spaces between them. The work therefore includes spring and winter, death and blossoming in equal measure.
It seems to have been a specific landscape which inspired Paul Klee to paint this picture. Klee’s wife Lily travelled several times in the late 1930’s to Lucerne for health reasons and she spent time in a sanatorium. Paul Klee had visited her there, when his own physical condition permitted and strolled with her through the park around the sanatorium.”

If you’ve visited with me before while I post about the art challenges you’ll know I’m not a fan of abstract art.  It really looks like a jumbled mess to me.  In fact, the only thing going in it’s favor from my perspective is the color palette and the fact that it’s supposed to be a park.  I knew August was going to be a busy month and wasn’t sure how much time I’d have to create anything, so I was thinking about skipping this month.  But I recalled that I had made a piece a couple months ago for my personal calendar challenge and the colors matched with this artwork perfectly.

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For the challenge, I called the piece, “A Walk in the Park” and I think it suits quite nicely in terms of composition and feeling.  I love these colors together – aqua, pink, orange, yellow, with accents of dark brown.  The pendant is from SummerWind Beads.  You know that if I can manage it, I’ll work a bird into any challenge.  This is no exception.  I had originally created this piece as a reminder of what a spring morning walk might feel like.  Birds chirping, flowers blooming, little leaves unfurling.. colors of pink petals, bright sky, sunshine…  The watery colors and pendant create a painterly effect that I think works quite well for the challenge.   I don’t have the energy right now to take pictures of the earrings, but they feature the citrine teardrops with pink glass accents and tiny brass leaves dangling.

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That’s all for today.  September’s challenge goes live in a few days and I’m curious to see what they’ll pick!  Dare I hope for something autumn-themed?  We’ll wait and see! Hope you all are having a wonderful week.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

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Gift #1022: Incompetent Airlines and the Kindness of Strangers

It’s been a long time since I blogged last.  I’ve been traveling a bit, visiting with family and enjoying spending time with them.  I got to meet my newest nephew, play with my 3-year old nephew, celebrate his birthday, spend time with my brother and sister-in-law, and play with their dogs.  It was a wonderful time with them.  I had to fly back earlier this week and they dropped me off at the airport and then things fell apart rather quickly.  After getting on and off various planes, being delayed, etc. we finally made it to Dallas, where I had missed my connecting flight back home.  I was booked on a later flight that night and within ten minutes of rebooking, the flight had been delayed over 2 hours.  Then we were told there were problems with the plane that had just come in that we were supposed to fly out on and were moved to another flight again.  At this point it was after 10.   After another 30min or so, American Airlines just announced that they were cancelling the flight.  It was absolute chaos and we were stranded in the airport overnight.  Hundreds of irate tired people were standing in lines trying to get booked on flights in the morning.  It was after 12:30am before I got through the line with a boarding pass, seat assignment, and vague assurances that the flight would fly out in the morning barring any mechanical issues or weather problems.  And then I was faced with the prospect of spending the night in the airport.  This was incredibly stressful for me because I’ve never even missed a connection before and didn’t know what to do.  The airlines staff weren’t helpful and I was scared, tired, and very stressed about getting back home.  It was especially annoying because I had wasted the whole day in airports when I could have had extra time with my family.

During the afternoon/evening when it became increasingly apparent that AA cannot reliably fly anywhere, I was frantically praying that God would work miracles and get me home that night.  Deep down, I felt Him nudging that maybe He had other plans and I shouldn’t be fixated on my comfort.  But I was – I wanted to go home, sleep, and go about the schedule I’d planned out for the week.  Being delayed, cancelled, and stranded was not on my to-do list.  We were in line to get our new travel arrangements made when the airline staff said we’d have to move to another desk so we all had to move and form a new line.  I was at the end of the new line, standing in between a single woman and a family with a college-aged daughter.  We made some small talk in line, basically trying to be supportive of each other while some of the passengers were getting out of control.  After we got our flights sorted, we got cots and decided to stay together.  The next few hours were nothing short of magical.  Complete strangers became friends.  We bunked down on the cots, got our phones/ipads charging, found blankets to snuggle into, and had grown-up sleep over.  (we couldn’t have a fire and roast marshmallows though). We shared stories, learned about each other, and enjoyed each others company so much.  One of the ladies and I ended up staying awake all night talking and becoming friends, sharing pictures and our lives with each other.  Though God didn’t get me home that night, he brought feelings of home to us and worked a miracle none-the-less. He brought strangers together and gave us fellowship.  A really stressful scary experience was transformed into a delightful party.  My friend had such a good attitude and showed me that an open spirit to accept what God brings is the way to travel through life.  When morning came, I was almost disappointed that it was time to go home.   But we both live here and we parted with hugs and the hopes of seeing each other again.

On the other side of the experience, I can look back and see God’s provision, although not in the way I expected.  It was a gentle way of learning to trust Him and a reminder that my focus should be on how to align my life to His will and not expect God to act always for my comfort.  He opened my eyes and my heart to see a world beyond my own wishes, to see people that He gave me an opportunity to meet and to be a blessing to.  And now, I wouldn’t have traded that experience for anything.  I’m safely home now and trying to get caught up on rest and things around the house for the upcoming week.  Today we had sun after several days of rain, and I caught some beautiful scenes in the garden.  So I will leave you with a few of those.  Hope you had a wonderful weekend!

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Blessings to you,
Sarah

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Gift #1021: The Hills and His Provision

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

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He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

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The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

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The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore.

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As we enter into a new week, may your heart be at peace and your mind be at rest knowing God’s love and provision for you never wane.  May you find beauty and see His face.  And may you know that you are loved forevermore and are held in His faithful hands.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1020: Dressing Downton

I’ve had some difficulty with internet connectivity the past several days, but I think wifi is cooperating enough right now to get in a blog post.  I’ve been so excited to share some of my recent trip to Cincinnati.  Every year my mom and I go to attend the Stampaway event, which is a large rubber stamp show.  We started off just going to Cinci once a year – down on a Friday afternoon and back Sunday morning, only for the show.  Now that we’ve gotten to know the city better, both Mom and I are hopelessly smitten. We go down on a Thurs morning and don’t come back till Sunday night – and we visit several times a year.  We are always finding new things to see and do – the city is full of delightful places.  This past spring we became acquainted with Taft Museum of Art when we went to see the Daubigny exhibit.  We made plans to return in August because they were hosting the “Dressing Downton” exhibit.  I’m not a diehard fan of the show, but I do especially enjoy the historical period when the first part of the show is set.  The costumes and the grand home are my favorite aspects of Downton.  Since I didn’t think Highclere Castle would be touring the US anytime soon, I jumped at a chance to see the costumes instead.

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The exhibit was very well displayed, with about 20 costumes you could admire up close.  Many were oriented so that you could see the back of the garment as well.  Pictured here are a few of my favorites.  The theme centered on relationship between clothing and culture.  The 1910s saw a dramatic shift in every aspect of society.  In many ways it was the swansong of a passing era, but it was also the birth of “modernity”.  The exhibit did a fascinating job of exploring the ideas, traditions, and hopes of each generation portrayed in the drama.  And now to the costumes!  Pictured above is Violet’s iconic costume – this was the first on display.  And we got to see the hat too!

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This iconic dress was a delight to behold.  One of the things I appreciated about the costumes was that they incorporated original fabrics and trims whenever possible.  Such was the case with this piece of lace which was converted into an overlay for the dress. I love everything about this one.

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Sybil’s day dress was a surprise for me.  On screen it looks blue, but it’s actually more of a grey color.  I learned that there was no formal color palette for the three daughters, but they still seemed to gravitate to particular colors to give each of the actresses a unique personality.  Sybil often was dressed in soft cool tones of grey, blues, and purples to accentuate her sweet and selfless demeanor.  We also learned in a lecture that this particular costume is a bit more subdued with black tassels because the family was in mourning during the 1st season.  Each  character wears black in their costumes in different ways.

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This evening dress was incredibly stunning and one of my favorites.  The bodice and front of the gown is completely beaded in a dramatic art deco style.  Embroidered flowers and sewn-in pearls add additional details.  All of this was hand-stitched and it made my heart flutter.  The long velvet overcoat has hand-stitched gold beads all along the edge.  Here’s a close up.  It was so feminine and elaborate.

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To round out the selection for today, this last photo may initially seem like a let-down after the evening gowns, but this one would be the one I’d like best to own.  I love this one dearly.

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It’s beauty is in it’s tailored practicality and understated details.  Though not covered in beadwork, it’s every bit as beautiful and full of workmanship.  The traveling coat is made of boiled wool in a fitted, graceful style.  It features dyed fur cuffs and collar (and we’re just going pretend it’s faux fur)  Accessories are modest and tasteful – a matching velvet purse and a hat which is the crowing glory of this ensemble.  It made me long for the days when a lady would wear such a thing to board a train with her steamer trunks for winter holiday.  Hands encased in warm velvet gloves and maybe a lace knit shawl for added warmth about the neck… oh, why don’t we dress like that anymore?

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Here’s a closeup of the hat.  Oh, my goodness!  Isn’t it beautiful?  I love the way the brim is blocked to slightly flair up above the face at that angle.  And there’s yards of dyed silk wrapped in a bow around the crown.  It’s brilliantly executed indeed.  While the exhibit extolled the progress of the decades ahead, I think most people, myself included, came away with a feeling of nostalgia.  On the “other side” of progress we can acknowledge that not all the revolutionary changes propelling us into the modern age were necessarily better. They came with their own set of unique problems, and I think that forges a bond between us and the characters of Downton.  Our times are not dissimilar from theirs; like the characters upstairs and down, we also struggle to make sense of a changing world, to have a sense of purpose, to find love, and make the most of the time we’re given….  although one can’t help but think it would be easier with tea and a beaded gown…

Blesssings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1019: July Art Bead Scene Challenge

Before July passed to far in the rearview mirror, I thought perhaps we should cap off the month with a review of the July Art Bead Scene challenge.

Our inspiration for the month was “Fireworks at Ryogoku” No. 98 from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, 8th month of 1858 by Utagawa Hiroshige.  This is a fine woodblock print in the classic Japanese tradition.  Earlier this year I fell in love with the work of Gustave Baumann who captured the Midwest and Western US in glorious woodblock images.  For that reason alone I have a soft spot for the artform and was excited to work with this piece.  It was custom at the time for boats to float on the Sumida River to enjoy summer evenings and host spectacular fireworks at dusk.  Entertainment, food, and drink made for a pleasant diversion during summer.  The artist was reknown for his landscape prints, often featuring birds and flowers.  This was among the last of his works.

One thing you’ll notice right away is that there’s not much color.  The print is saturated in dark tones with brief bursts of color.  Because I don’t tend to make pieces that are very dark, I wanted to try with this challenge.  Here is the necklace that I designed.

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I used a lily pendant from Humblebeads which was in a destash bundle of beads I bought earlier this year.  The dark grey/teal of the pendant matched with the print very well and I thought the floral sketch yielded an oriental feel.  To pair with the pendant, I used a strand of rough-cut dark aquamarine stones that I found in Cincinnati this spring.  The colors melded beautifully with the pendant and reminded me of the dark liquid tones of deep water.  To flesh out the design I used Hill Tribe silver spacers, beads, and clasp which are stamped with a little floral design on them that echoed the oriental inspiration.   It’s a little heavier than designs I usually create, but the silver helps lighten the overall piece and I’m rather pleased.  I had originally planned to use just a few of the aquamarine stones, but when I saw how lovely they were with the pendant, I decided to string the whole necklace with them.  I hope I can find some more!  They are a bit darker in life than the picture shows, with incredible rich colors.

Unfortunately I could not make the stones work in an earring design – they were just too big for that.  Instead I used some glass Czech beads in dark grey/purple finish.  I used them as dangles and thought they looked like umbrella-type buildings that are popular in eastern architecture.  They are paired with a couple different beads in teal hues (one of my favorite colors so I have lots of beads to choose from!) and more silver spacers.

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I’m really enjoying the selections of art this year – not so much for the art itself, but for how it inspires and makes me think of designing jewelry in new ways.  I’ve already had a peak at August’s art and it’s going to a fun challenge too and make me exercise my creative muscles.  Maybe you’ll play along too?

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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