You might have noticed a major lack of blog posts over the last few months. I confess: I've been in a major creative slump. About four months ago my husband and I moved from New Mexico to Southern California, and it took awhile for the moving chaos to die down and my jewelry supplies to be unpacked. And if you happen to be a long-time reader of this blog, you might remember that I struggle with autoimmune disease, and major stress events (i.e. an interstate move) are a huge trigger for me. When my autoimmune issues flare up I feel pretty awful, and the last thing I want to do with my very limited energy is be creative when I have a million other necessary things that need to be done. That said, I'm finally feeling back to my old self, and when I saw that the theme of Halcraft's February Pretty Palette Challenge was 'lace', I was really inspired.
I often compare the wire focal elements that I create to lacy designs, so I figured this challenge would fit perfectly with my style. I'm not generally a huge pink person--at least not the pale pink this challenge included--but with Valentine's Day being a prominent holiday this month I decided to take the plunge. Of course I added in some brighter and darker pinks because, well, me.
I used a variety of beads in shades of pink including agate, quartzite, and bamboo coral, as well as glass crystals and glass pearls. All of the beads I used excepting the glass peals are Bead Gallery beads (Halcraft) from Michaels. The glass pearls (shown above on the upper right) are Crystazzi brand, also from Michaels. I used glass pearls in 6mm and 8mm sizes in the necklace, and in 4mm size in the earrings. I also used tiny freshwater pearls (Bead Gallery/Halcraft) on the toggle clasp, which are not pictured above. I forewent my usual mixed metal signature style and stuck with all copper wire for this project, as I felt the rosy copper color really paired nicely with all of the shades of pink and kept the whole piece feeling very feminine and rosy.
These are the lace images that I took my design ideas from:
I liked the idea of swirling shapes connected by simple geometric lines, and thought it would translate nicely to wire. In an ode to Valentine's Day I incorporated a heart shape in the design of the wire focal elements, a shape I generally don't gravitate toward but thought added a sweet touch.
I created my wire focals the same way I always do (you can find the tutorial here), hammering and wrapping them for stability.
For these focals it was easiest and most efficient to create smaller wire shapes and then wrap them together (like a mirror image), rather than to create one large shape.
Once I had my three large focal elements and each side connector created I laid them out and played around with the color scheme and beads I wanted to use.
(This was my original design, although you'll notice a few changes in the final product.)
(You can find the tutorial for how I embellish my wire focals with beads here.) I was pleased with how these large focals turned out. I don't usually work on such a large scale because it's difficult to keep symmetry of shape, but I think these turned out pretty well. (You can see another large focal element made of multiple wire shapes wrapped together here...as much as I love that older piece, I think these turned out much better!)
Once the focals were finished it was fairly smooth sailing--just wrapping together the strands of pearls and fussing over how many to use in each strand to get the focals to drape just right. The photos above were my original version, but I didn't like where the pearls were positioned or the heavy feeling of the coral beads on the sides. On a side note, isn't it amazing how different the colors look on a white background vs. a black background? I find this often since I use a lot of translucent beads, but the drastic difference still always amazes me. It's like getting two necklaces in one!
This is the final product, and I think I made the right choice in switching the placement of the pearl strands and switching out the coral beads. This one feels just right! It turned out feeling quite a bit more lavish and extravagant than my usual creations, so I decided some big, bold, extravagant matching earrings were in order.
These actually turned out quite large, although not heavy at all. The only element of any weight is the coral stone bead dangle in the center, so the earrings do not really weigh down the lobes much.
I first started out with a traditional chandelier (above left), but it felt sort of boring to me compared to the necklace. So, I flipped it upside down (above right) and added another layer of draped pearls to better echo the design of the necklace. I really like this funkier version but these are definitely big, even for me (again, if you're a longtime blog follower than you also know I have great love for big earrings). These are the sort of earrings you'd wear for a really lavish event, like a fancy wedding or a quinceanera...in fact, I'm thinking that if I decide to list this set in my Etsy shop, then to make the set a little more appealing I'll likely turn these earrings into a cuff bracelet, and create a slightly smaller set of earrings to match (but still with the same design).
At this point there was still one detail left...
If you've read through many of my other jewelry posts you'll know my one store-bought concession for my necklaces is usually a toggle clasp. There are so many beautiful, pre-fab toggles out there, and while creating my own toggle clasps has been on my to-do list for a LONG time, I always feel like anything I might come up with couldn't be as pretty as the gorgeous, machine sculpted toggles I can buy. However, this necklace was made entirely of bright copper wire, and the only copper toggles I had on hand were patinaed and very industrial looking, and this piece was just too ornate for that--it would have been a total mismatch. So--you guessed it--I finally decided to try my hand at creating a toggle. If you look closely at the photos above you'll see that there are two different toggle bars pictured...I had to make a couple of attempts before I got it somewhat right.
After making the toggle's frames I hammered and wrapped them to reflect a style similar to the necklace's focal elements.
This is the final product. Definitely more ornate than I'd create for everyday jewelry, but I figured this necklace was already over the top, so why not just keep going?? I'm pretty happy with how the clasp turned out, and now I have a basic strategy for making simple toggles for my less fancy jewelry. (Now I can say my pieces are completely, entirely handmade, and not 'all handmade except for the clasp'!)
Below are some more detailed shots of the pieces.
I also took a couple of photos of the pieces in action, so you can get a better feel for their size and scale. (Please forgive the tacky bra lines!)
I think these pieces would make a really fabulous bridal or quinceanera set! Bold yet delicate, lavish-looking yet still simple in materials, feminine yet contemporary--such a perfect way to showcase a bride or birthday girl on her big day! (Especially if I create a matching bracelet!)
Where would you wear jewelry this bold or extravagant? Do you love big earrings too? Have you ever made your own clasps? I'd love to know.
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