Monday, October 27, 2014

Portable Bead Storage


I occasionally have to travel to other cities leaving my studio and beadwork behind. I can be away for extended periods. Not wanting to leave my beadwork behind I found a system to organize my beads and allow me to take them with me where ever I go.

I use the plastic boxes by IRIS. They are 4 X 6 boxes designed to hold photographs but work well for storing beads and other beading paraphernalia. They are readily available. In addition, 16 of the boxes will fit nicely in to a 15 X 12 X 5 plastic suitcase style box that is sold along with the boxes. The plastic suitcase locks shut and has a sturdy carrying handle. The entire assembly is available from LTD Commodities for about $20.00. There are many other sources.

I have two such suitcase assemblies and they fit nicely into an old canvas bag designed to hold Plano fishing tackle boxes. The canvas bag has pockets on either side where I can put slightly larger plastic boxes that hold tools or larger items. The bag zips up and has a carrying handle and a shoulder strap. I have used this system for a couple of years and it works well for me. Feel free to visit Sirocco’s Trading Post to see my beadwork.










Thursday, October 23, 2014

Make a Bracelet Using Cube Beads


It seems I have accumulated quite a large selection of 4 mm cube beads. They are also called dice beads. Most of my inventory consists of Japanese Miyuki glass beads in a variety of colors. But I also have a selection of gemstone and shell dice beads such as turquoise, agate, tiger’s eye, mother of pearl, etc.

I decided it would be interesting to create a bracelet using various cube beads. The cube beads are a bit large and a bracelet canvas is somewhat small so the design had to be simple. I decided to make the design a simple series of square panels of one stone separated by a different colored stone. I made two such bracelets. In one case I used square panels of turquoise separated by mother of pearl and in the other the turquoise is separated by a terracotta glass bead.

The beads are woven together with Fire Line using the off loom square stitch method. I had to use a loose weave in order to get the needle through the tiny holes between the rather large beads. Then I ran the thread back through all the beads to tighten up the assembly. Finally I sewed the assembly on to a soft leather strap with snaps for closure.

The results are shown in the picture above. I usually make adornments with a more Native American flair but these men’s bracelets are of a more contemporary design. Earlier, I made some bracelets using the peyote stitch with its zig-zag pattern. You can see examples in my earlier blog post. Click here.

All of my bracelets are for sale in my trading post stores. You can find some here at Sirocco’s Trading Post (etsy) and Sirocco’s Trading Post (ArtFire).


Monday, October 13, 2014

It’s all about Ear Cuffs


Ear cuffs were popular in ancient times but in modern times they cycle through periods of popularity and they are currently retuning to popularity.

An ear cuff is an ear adornment that fits onto the upper portion of the ear. There are two main varieties of cuffs. One kind is held in place by the ear cartilage and can be as simple as a small circular clip or one that covers the whole of the ear. The second one is a formed stiff wire that fits over the ear and hangs down behind the ear. Both kinds are embellished with precious metals or gemstones.

An advantage of an ear cuff is no piercing is required and you do not have a weight tugging on your ear lobe. You only wear one ear cuff. It is not like they are earrings.

You can find a nice selection of feather adorned ear cuffs at the Modtoast store. Check them out. Click on ear cuff to find the cuffs or click on Modtoast to enter the front door of the store where you will find a whole variety of unique fashions.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Hand Cut Turquoise Necklace



My latest creation is this turquoise necklace. I salvaged the turquoise from an old vintage necklace that was broken and had missing parts. The turquoise disks are a fine medium blue with a strong black matrix. I don’t know the source of the turquoise.

The original necklace had a somewhat tribal appearance. The turquoise heishi disks were hand cut and a bit rough. Some disks are thick while others are thin. There isn’t the sheen that one usually sees on modern stabilized turquoise. In other words, I believe this turquoise to be quite old. There were some handmade sterling beads in the original but they were too badly crushed to be reused. The original was strung on short pieces waxed cord that were tied together to make a longer cord. Interesting!

The front of the necklace has 10 mm disks while the sides have 6 mm disks. I have added some graduated polished black onyx and silver roundels to give the necklace some sparkle and some contrast. It also creates the appearance of a graduated necklace. This new necklace is 22 inches long and has a lobster claw clasp.

The necklace is for sale in my etsy shop, Sirocco’s Trading Post. I hope you will stop by and take a look at all the items listed in the shop.


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Beaded Feather Earrings


This morning I was delighted to find my beaded feather earrings featured in a treasury on etsy. The treasury is titled Birds of a Feather and was created by Paula Turnbull. There is fine creative work in this treasury. You will find Jill Clair’s wonderful abstract horse paintings while Bob Holt has an interesting steampunk wall art. Steve and Barbara of Black Hawk Creations have an extraordinary copper feather necklace. Click here to visit the treasury or click on Sirocco’s Trading Post to visit my store.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Collecting Cigarette Lighters


Cigarette lighters continue to be a sought after collectible. According to Kovel’s, cigarette lighters continue to be  among the top 20 searches on their website. Cigarettes became popular in the late 1800s and along with them came matches and then lighters. The most common lighters made today are of the disposable kind. But even those in various odd shapes are collectible. In addition to the lighter shown here, I have a number of novelty lighters in my ecrater store that might fit your collectible needs. I invite you to take a look. I will be adding more lighters in the coming weeks so be sure to stop back.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Native American Hand Made Hat Band


I finally finished making a hat band for my hat. This hat band is constructed a bit differently than most hat bands that I have seen. What I usually see is a long loom beaded strip that ends with some ties to tie the band to the hat. The ties allow the band to fit any size hat.

What I did is cut a long strip of leather and put snaps on the end to make the strip fit the hat. I thought that would be simpler than ties and it gives me a long leather canvas on which to create the art.

The first step was to make the front of the band. I beaded up a long strip using size 11 Delicas in a triple diamond pattern. I selected a bright orange color for a bold contrast with the black and white beads.

To make the strip I used the square stitch technique. A lot of bands use loom beading but I don’t care much for loom beaded projects. It seems that no matter how hard one tries to hide them, the threads are always visible. Loom beading is much faster because several beads are added all at once. Square stitch beading requires sewing each individual bead into place one at at time. Square stitching results in a tight strong strip and no visible treads. I used six pound FireLine (fishing line) for the thread.

At the ends of the beaded strip I sewed some small thin bone hair pipe beads and after that I sewed on another short beaded strip. I finished off the back of the band with a single row of half inch bone hair pipes with a silver ball at each end.

I do like the way it came out. It is maybe a bit busy but I still like it. This particular band is not for sale but I think I will make some other bands using this technique but with ties on the ends for a more universal fit. In the mean time I hope you will visit Sirocco’s Trading Post on etsy and look at some of my other beaded creations.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Rustic Bench From Scrap Lumber

IMG_3707Pictured at the left is  a comfortable outdoor bench I built from scrap lumber. The bench is quite comfortable to sit on and I have begun to make a slight dent the pile of scrap wood that I have accumulated.

There is always a certain amount of leftover material from the various construction projects that take place around my home. It seems there are always short pieces of 2X4s or an odd shaped piece of plywood that has no use in the project. Most people dispose of such scrap in some rational way but I have always had the nagging thought “you never know when you might need a short piece of 2X4 or an odd shaped piece of plywood.” So, I tend to save all the scrap and pile it up on one of the back lots. Over the years the tangle of boards has accumulated. I not only have a huge pile of such scrap, but I have several of them.

Here is a photo of one of the piles. It is not the biggest one but it is the one most visible. Weeds have grown up around the other piles making them difficult to see let alone actually find them. I suppose I should find a way to dispose of all that scrap wood but there is always that nagging thought that keeps coming back. It is my dilemma. IMG_3704

The bench is of simple construction. I just made two rectangular frames for the end pieces (short pieces of 2X4s) and then nailed boards across (an odd shaped piece of plywood) for the seat. I added some braces and made a simple backrest. Although simple, it took a lot of time to make. That is because most of the lumber was twisted or warped. I guess that is why it was in the scrap heap to begin with. But that’s OK. Most of my wood working projects end up being mostly wood putty anyway.

I decided to paint the bench. Under my work bench I found some opaque brown oil paint that I used to paint the old cabin some 15 years ago. The old cabin isn’t here anymore. It burned down a while back. But I still have the paint. The paint seemed to be OK but I had to stir it for 45 minutes to get the solids back into suspension. After years of going through freezing and thawing cycles the solids had settled to the bottom to form a thick, stiff mud.

You might notice the red paint on the borders of the bench. That is just some of my foolishness. I had about two fingers of red paint in a quart can and I wanted to use it up. So I painted the edges. I thought it might give the bench a little more character. Now when I look at it, it looks like it’s smiling at me.

The bench is actually quite comfortable. My plan is to make a few more benches and place them along the walking trail that leads through the woods. I walk the trail every so often but knowing there is are benches every so often for me to sit and rest will make the walking more enjoyable.

I hope you will take the time to look at some of my other handiwork at my store “Really Cool Jewelry for Men.”



Thursday, March 27, 2014

Applique Beaded Leather Bag


A couple of weeks ago I attended a class at the Mille Lacs Indian Museum in Onamia Minnesota. The class was titled “Applique Beading.” Applique beading is similar to needle point except rather than using colored threads one uses beads of various colors and the stitching is done on leather instead of fabric. The method I learned is the single needle technique. There is also a two needle technique.

I chose to make a small leather bag. I only had a few choices for the beaded design. I chose the round medallion as it seemed to be the simplest of the choices. My finished product is shown in the photo. It is not perfect. There are some flaws but I am OK with the results. In some ways the task was easier than I thought it would be and in some ways it was more difficult. It was easier to push the needle through the thick leather than I thought it would be. I used a #10 Glover’s needle and modified leather thimbles on my thumb and middle finger. But laying the beads right where they need to be was somewhat more challenging than I was expecting. Clearly I will need a lot more practice.

This bag is not for sale but I have added a couple of new items to my Artfire store, Sirocco’s Trading Post. I invite you to stop in and take a look around.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

African Maasai Bead Necklace


Last summer during my travels I came across a bead store that was closing its doors and going out of business. They had a sign in their window announcing 50% off everything so naturally I had to stop in. Inside I discovered a big basket of old African Maasai beads. Each bead was about the size of a grape and came in colors of red, orange, yellow, and purple. The heaping basket looked much like a bowl fruit salad. Old large Maasai beads are somewhat rare and usually quite expensive. These had an attractive price so I snatched up a couple handfuls.

The Maasai people are a nomadic tribe in the Kenyon region of African and are well known for their colorful beadwork. The Maasai rarely put similar colored beads next to each other. A darker will always follow a lighter color. The result is very distinctive and colorful beadwork.

Following their technique I strung together this colorful necklace. I added some sterling bead caps and added some sterling side bars to give the necklace a bit more pizzazz. Clearly this necklace is not a Native American design but I enjoy working with all sorts of African trade beads. You can find this necklace along with other interesting adornments at the Sirocco’s Trading Post on Etsy.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Organize and Store Your Beads


Over the years I have accumulated a rather large assortment of beads. I have gemstones, shell beads, beads of glass, along with metal beads. I have beads made from bone, horn, coral, and just about any other material one can think of. In addition I have cabochons, various sizes of seed beads, and Swarovski crystals. In other words I have a lot of beads. I store most of my beads in Plano 9X14 inch fishing tackle boxes. I had number of those Plano boxes leftover from my fishing tackle assortment so that is why I started using them. At first that worked quite well but as I accumulated more and more beads and purchased ever more boxes, the boxes became cumbersome. The problem is I ended up with stacks and stacks of boxes. I’d have to un-stack the boxes and sift through them trying to find what I wanted.

Then a solution presented itself! One day while poking around at a surplus store I discovered an open faced document filing cabinet used for filing 8.5X11 inch documents. The openings were just wide enough to accommodate my 9 inch wide boxes. I couldn’t resist. I bought it. Now, as you can see from the photo, I have all my bead boxes labeled and each one neatly stored away in one of the filing cabinet cubby holes. It works quite well. Now, if you will just stop by my Sirocco’s Trading Post store, you can see what I make with all those beads.


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Fire King Milk Glass


Milk glass is a type of white opaque glass that originated in the late 1500s in Venice. It can be made into dinnerware, vases, bottles and a variety of adornments. In the 1920s it was associated with prosperity and wealthy American culture. Some of the highest quality milk glass was produced during that time period. But during the depression era the glass was considered to be of lesser quality. Various forms of the glass are still produced today and milk glass items have become a very sought after collectible item. According to Kovels, “milk glass” was a most searched search term in 2013.

Modern milk glass is somewhat different than the old glass. One such milk glass was produced by Anchor Hocking in the 1940s.They produced a low expansion borosilicate glass perfect for use in the oven. It was named “Fire King.” It is a bit more translucent and less opaque. Fire King is also a very collectible product. Besides Anchor Hocking some popular manufactures of milk glass are Fenton, Imperial, and Indiana. There are several others.

I have several pieces of Fire King and other milk glass for sale in my ecrater curios store, Sirocco’s Curios. It is always fun to stop in a take a look around.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Native American Single Strand Beaded Necklace


Single strand beaded necklaces, currently in stock, are shown in the photo at the left. I enjoy making these simple necklaces. I frequently start each day of beading by making a single strand necklace. It helps to get my creative juices flowing. When working with beads I lay out a large assortment of beads and then paw and sift through them. I arrange them into various configurations and, ultimately, I string together beads of various sizes, shapes and colors into a single strand necklace. In the process an interesting and more complicated design for perhaps a bracelet, some earrings or maybe even a belt buckle begins to form in my mind. It is just the way I start my day of beading. So I always have several of these necklaces for sale in my store. You will find some here at Sirocco’s Trading Post. I hope you will stop in and take a look around.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Wrist Watches for Men and Women


I enjoy working with watches. Recently, I acquired a quantity of pre-owned and new watches. The photo shows a pile of used watches but I also have large boxes of new in-the-box wrist watches. There are some excellent watches in the lot. Some need minor repair like a new battery or a pin that holds the strap on. I will be adding these watches to the Sirocco’s Curios store over the next several days. Take a look at this fine Waltham men’s wrist watch.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Native American Turquoise and Bone Hair Pipe Bracelet


This is a colorful two strand beaded bracelet using traditional Native American components. I made one strand with small turquoise nuggets and 5mm sterling rounds. The second strand has 1 inch bone hair pipes interspersed with 5mm turquoise rounds and 5mm sterling rounds. The bracelet is simple and tribal but still elegant. I used a simple lobster claw clasp and ring for closure. This bracelet is for sale at Sirocco’s Trading Post on Etsy. I hope you will take a look.