Monday, November 7, 2011

Classical Book Challenges Spur Jewelry Inspirations

I will be participating in a classical reading challenge for 2012.  Excellent notion, since many of my jewelry inspirations seed from classic literature and themes.  Here is the link to the challenge posed by November's Autumn.  Check it out for yourself:


Silas Marner by George Eliot (re-read)
I love the underlying theme of this story ... love of objects replaced by love of people. 


The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (re-read)
I read this book in college as assigned reading for a business ethics class. Greusome and tragic story that keeps me a simple and honest person in my business dealings. The climate of morals hasn't changed much. A good reminder to be accountable for your actions and who they may affect.


The jungle book by Rudyard Kipling
I love the transcedental love of the animal kingdom. My animal friends, it would seem, are more accepting than my human friends. Love the adventure, and theme of the innocence to carnality in this book.


Orlando by Virginia Woolf
The thought that such a forward concept and transgender morphism being written and openly accepted in the time frame that this book was written intriques me. I loved the movie, and can't wait to read the book.


The gold bug by Edgar Allen Poe
Poe ... does it really need any more description than that?  SWOON


The lay of the last minstrel by Sir Walter Scott, Bart. (re-read)
I love the prose of this book, witty and romantic.


The Swiss Family Robinson by Johan Wyss

Only seen the movie, and was astounded that the themes of heartfelt humanity were written so long ago. The ideas are so modern.  Looking forward to reading it.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

How To Dye Grizzy Saddle Feathers

I hand dyed feathers this weekend! Want to know how to dye feathers?  read on...

undyed grizzly, cream and grey pelts
The feather craze has hit. While the trend of long feathers worn in the hair and in earrings is just heating up, the sparse availability and sky rocketing cost of feathers is making it nearly impossible to find them anymore. If you have favorite or demanded colors that can't be found anymore, a good solution is to dye the colors yourself. 

Pro Chemical dyes

When dying feathers, or any natural protien fiber such as leather, silk, wool ect you need to use an acid dye.  I went to Pro Chemical for my dye because they have tons of color selection from several brands available and each one will color differently. For this batch I used PRO ONE SHOT and PRO WASHFAST because those lines had the fluorescent dyes such as fluorescent and flavine yellow and rhodamine red that make feather colors really POP.  Be careful when selecting colors not to pick pigments or paints. Those are for surface coating - not dyeing.

The kind of feathers I dyed are called saddle feathers coming from a hybrid rooster. Good luck finding a pelt for under 150.00 these days!  This bird takes a whopping 2 years to mature and there are no more feathers ready until spring 2012.  Expect bidding wars - if you can find them for sale anywhere - and plan on paying 2.00 - 5.00 per feather. Feather prices are suibject to steep increases based on demand.

The stripped pattern is called grizzly. Also there are other saddle feathers that are solid and several grades of quality that effect length and such. The best information on saddle feathers and their grades can be found on the Caddis Fly Shop website.

You can dye any feather. Greys yield deeper darker colors, creams translate brights, and natural grizzly feathers dye vivid while maintaining the black stripes. Badger feathers (they have a single black stripe that travels down the length of the feather shaft) pick up colors nicely and the stripe is retained.

If you want a bright feather color,  I recommend cream, white or palest silvers. If your feathers are dingy or greasy, brighten them up and clean them with some diaper white detergent.  Do a practice batch on cheap feathers to figure out the ratios. It is possible to burn feathers with diaper white and dye. The feathers will become curly and stiff, crunchy and brittle if they are burned.


To dye feathers, you will need:

1 metal stock pot (that is dedicated to use for dyeing)
sink and running water
powdered dye  ( 1-5 TB for half a pot of water amount varies by color, feather quantity and water amount)
stove top
white vinegar
hair dryer with
gloves or REDURAN (to avoid coloring hands or removing color from hands)
a dye journal to write down the ratios so you can repeat any results


Pelts simmers in red dyebath
Fill a pan 1/3 to 1/2 way full of water and heat to simmer on stove top. Once steaming, add the dye. It dissolves better when the water is hot. (fluorescent yellow and aqua shades require more than reds, blues and purples) you can use a color wheel to mix your own shades. Jot down water / dye / feather / time ratios so if you get amazing results you know how to recreate them.

You can dye 2-3 pelts at a time. Gently simmer the pelts for 5 minutes to soften the skins, using tongs to stir the feathers and keep them submerged and  then remove from heat and set aside for 10 more minutes. It is possible to put the vinegar in the simmering dye bath, but it is too smelly for me so I use it during the rinsing.


Pour a sink with 2 gallons of water and 2 cups of white vinegar.
Put on gloves and use tongs to pick the feathers up out of the cooled dye. If you plan to use the dye for another batch, squeezed the dye liquid out of the pelts back into the pot. Now place the wet pelts into the vinegar/water solution and agitate to rinse to release the dye from the feathers.  Let soak for a few minutes and agitate again.

Pelt being rinsed in vinegar/water solution
In the second sink, have warm water and synthropol to further release over dye from the feathers until the water is clear (some color will always be present due to color release from the skin.  Now squeeze as much water from the pelt as possible - do NOT wring because this will tear feathers from the pelt.


Roll feathers in a towel to remove more water and then dry them on a high heat setting with a hair dryer just like you dry your hair. Keep the heat moving. Once feathers are dry, flat on paper towel over cardboard and pin the skin flat for a day or so to dry the skin completley. Some grease will release from the skin as it dries (thus the towel.)


I dyed 33 pelts in 2 evenings.  It was so much fun.  What do you think of these colors?

I used fluorescent yellow, hot pink, mountain aqua, rhodamine red, strawberry red, wild iris and brilliant blue.  Using fluorescent and neon colors can make black-light responsive colors and add a bright factor to mixed colors. I chose red/yellow/blue to mix my own spectrum of colors ...

If you enjoy long feathers, check out my Etsy shop to see some feather jewelry - bright colors coming soon ...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

St Patrich's Wearing o' the Green ...

All Designs created exclusively by Jamie Smedley for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads. Material lists can be found online in the Fire Mountain Gems and Beads Gallery of Designs.

Find these and other designs by Jamie Smedley by searching 'Jamie Smedley' or view the holiday themes - St. Patrich's

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Happy faeries use recycled faerie lighting

I hate throwing anything away.  It just seems a waste of resources. I have many little glass objects laying around that I just found a use for and it will make such a pretty fairy wonderland of my backyard - pictures to come I complete it.  Want to do the same?  Here is the project I found:

  1. 1
    Step 1
    METHOD ONE (best for glasses, tea light holders, etc.)
    **NOTE: I'm not sure why I put this one on first, because it's more complicated. You may want to scroll down and start with METHOD TWO.**
    Cut two pieces of wire long enough so they can almost make a full circle (top to bottom) around your container.
    Fold each piece in half and loop them together as shown.
  2. 2
    Step 2
    Twist loops until each end of the wire is facing in the opposite direction.
  3. 3
    Step 3
    Next, lay your container mouth-down on your work surface and center the looped wire intersection in the middle.
  4. 4
    Step 4
    Carefully holding the wire in place with one hand, pick up your container and fold the wire ends in to the mouth and down the side.
    You can cut the wire if it's too long, or to your own desired length. Make sure to keep some length for added support, though. I'd say at least one inch into your container at minimum.
  5. 5
    Step 5
    Next, cut two pieces of wire roughly the same size as the first, or longer/shorter as you like. These will be the handle, so it's up to you how long you want it to be.
    Using your needle nose pliers, twist a tiny hook in the end of each wire as shown.
  6. 6
    Step 6
    Taking one lenth of wire, carefully hook the end under the bend where the support wire folds into the mouth of the container.
    Pinch closed with needle nose pliers, and repeat with other end of wire on the opposite side. You should have an upside-down U shape over your container. Carefully twist the top to form a small twisted circle for the next wire to pass through.
  7. 7
    Step 7
    Take your second length of wire and repeat step 6. Make sure after you hook the first end of the wire and pinch it closed, you pass the wire through the small circle you made with the first wire. You can loop the wire around for added support if you like. Then, hook the second end and pinch it closed.
    This picture is hard to see, but I connected the ends of the wire on this glass dish side-by-side instead of on opposide sides and looped them together at the top.
  8. 8
    Step 8
    If you'd like, you can fashion a little S-hook out of the wire and attach it to the loops.
    Just add a tea light candle and you're ready to be enlightened! :)
  9. 9
    Step 9
    METHOD TWO: Glass jars (jam jars, canning jars, etc.)
    Cut a length of wire long enough to circle the mouth of your jar about 1 and a half times.
    Twist a loop in one end, and hold it in place under the lip of the jar, pulling the wire around until you reach the opposite side (180 degrees from the first loop) and make a second loop.
    Next, pull the wire back to the first loop (creating a full circle under the lip of the jar) and hook the wire around the first loop. Pinch closed with pliers.
  10. 10
    Step 10
    Cut a second length of wire for your handle. This can be as long or as short as you want your lantern to hang.
    Bend a tiny hook in either end of your wire and hook through the loops. Pinch closed with pliers.
    Add a tea light and enjoy!!
  11. 11
    Step 11
    You can experiment with all sorts of glass containers, try different color themes, decoupage, use different sizes, or even paint them to make stained glass!
    Remember to never leave lighted lanterns unattended! :)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Blacklight Jewelry ...

by Jamie Smedley, Marketing Content Development, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

Remember the fun of black lights? Whether it was at the roller-skating rink or your favorite concert, most everyone is familiar with black lights and how they make certain materials come alive with a fantastic glow. This same black light fun is now lighting up the fashion scene in beautiful, high quality jewelry.

All you need to capture this terrific trend is fluorescing glass beads. Commonly known as vaseline or uranium glass, its popularity can be traced to the 1830s. This glass became known as vaseline glass in the 1950s because of its glossy transparent appearance similar to Vaseline® petroleum jelly. Vaseline glass typically has a yellow-green hue in daylight and radiates a bright, bold fluorescent green under a black light.

The glowing properties of vaseline glass are from the uranium oxides and additional fluorescing colorants such as manganese and iron infused into the glass at the molten stage. Vaseline glass is not harmful. In fact, the scarce radioactive property of the uranium used in the vaseline glass-making process is lower than the amount that everyone is exposed to on a daily basis.

Production of vaseline glass ceased during World War II because the government confiscated all supplies of uranium dioxide to supply war efforts. Today, only a small amount is produced in the USA and the Czech Republic.

Create jewelry with a dual personality -- known for its beauty by day and its surprising fluorescent magic by black-lit night! A great complement to this season's bright, neon colors.

Vaseline glass is found in some colored Czech glass beads, including jonquil yellow, lemon yellow, yellow/blue and black/green tortoise. In natural light they have a bright, almost neon appearance and will glow a strong green under a UV (black light) lamp. An easy way to check if glass beads have fluorescent properties is to place them under a black light in a dark room.

Vintage vaseline glass beads have become very collectible. Since they are rare, they can be quite expensive. However, the colored Czech glass beads mentioned above are known to glow even brighter and are more easily available and affordable than the vintage varieties.

Be the life of the party this season with an attention-getting entrance in fluorescing jewelry!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Top 10 List - You know you're a beader when

By Jamie Smedley, Marketing Content Development, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®
  1. An exciting night for you means organizing your massive bead collection.
  2. You have more pairs of pliers than your husband does.
  3. The first thing you do while on vacation is flip through the yellow pages to find a bead shop to buy more beads, and you already have over 200 pounds sitting at home.
  4. You count beads and stitches instead of sheep to fall asleep at night.
  5. Beading stores know you by your FIRST name, and have your credit card number on file.
  6. Every conceivable surface in your home, including your pets, is covered with finished jewelry, multiple beading projects, new beads not yet put away, beads on display and beaded d├ęcor.
  7. Your pantry and cupboards have more beads than food in them.
  8. Long gone are the cute little bead storage containers. Jumbo sized Costco toolboxes that are full to overflowing, but you still have beads everywhere!
  9. You justify buying more beads with one-liners like, ''My beading addiction is healthier than smoking,'' or ''Beads won't ruin my diet because they don't have calories.''
  10. Your family can't remember the last time they ate at the kitchen table, which is known as no man's land under certain death if they dump over your bead board or cups of beads.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Usher in the Creative Year of the RABBIT !!

by Jamie Smedley, Marketing Content Development, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

In China, the beginning of every year falls between late January and early February, and is marked by an animal sign of the Chinese zodiac that is repeated every twelve years. Each year is given a different animal sign as a way of counting the years. The years are scheduled according to the lunar cycles of the moon as compared to the solar-based calendars of the West. Since 1911, the Chinese have adopted the solar calendar and use it alongside the lunar calendar for holidays. Many Chinese calendars have both solar and lunar dates printed on them.

Zodiac Origins
The animals used in the zodiac, and how they came to represent it, are a wonderful Chinese legend with many variations. The most common version being the legend of the Jade Emperor and how he wanted to hold a race across a river to give twelve animals the right to rule for a year. All animals were given a chance to swim, and the first twelve to reach the opposite bank would win the positions in which they arrived.

Cat and Rat were the worst swimmers of all the animals, so they designed a plan to ask if they could cross the river on the back of Bull. Bull, being a kind and gentle creature, agreed to carry them. As the group reached the center of the rushing river, the ambitious Rat pushed Cat off Bull's back and into the water to ensure his victory. Rat's betrayal is why Cat and Rat have evermore been sworn enemies and why, to this day, cats despise swimming in water.

As Bull reached the riverbank, Rat darted atop Bull's head and sprang to the ground to reach the shore first and became the first zodiac animal. Bull was content to be given the second year. The third animal to successfully cross the river was Tiger, who was known to be the most powerful of all the animals. Exhausted, Tiger explained that the heavy currents of the river, coupled with an entangled log, had pushed Tiger further downstream, delaying the animal's arrival.

After Tiger was proclaimed the third animal of the zodiac, the Jade Emperor heard a thumping sound just as Rabbit bounded into view. As the fourth animal, he explained his attempts at trying to cross the river by jumping from stone to stone. The stones eventually came to an end, leaving Rabbit stranded in the middle of the waters and, fearing he could lose the race, thought quickly and hopped onto a floating log to reach the shore.

The fifth animal to reach the shore was Dragon. Dragon was as strong as Tiger, and even though he could fly, Dragon didn't come in first. When the Jade Emperor asked why, Dragon said that it was because he took time to stop and help the people and creatures of the earth who were suffering famine by causing rain. Then, seeing little Rabbit stranded on a rock, Dragon guided the log that was entangling Tiger away to instead help Rabbit float across the river.

Dragon had just finished this tale when a thunderous splashing was heard and Horse reared towards the shore but the cunning Snake, having wrapped around the ankle of Horse, suddenly dropped onto the bank just ahead of Horse. This sudden appearance spooked the poor Horse backwards, giving Snake the sixth position, followed by Horse in seventh.

Next to arrive were Ram, Monkey and Rooster who skidded to a stop on the shore riding a tangled reed raft. They told the Jade Emperor how they formed an alliance to help each other cross the river beginning with Rooster who had flown around until a suitable raft was spotted and then took Monkey and Ram to where it was. Then Ram and Monkey cleared the weeds and they all glided upon it across the water to the shore. Delighted with their mutual efforts, the Jade Emperor gave Ram the eighth zodiac position, Monkey the ninth and Rooster the tenth.

Dog, known to be the best swimmer, was next to reach the shore and explained that upon seeing his dirt-smudged coat paired with the tempting clean river waters, he decided to stop and bathe, but Dog tarried for too long and almost didn't finish the race. Finally, Pig emerged squealing and sputtering from the waters as the last and twelfth zodiac animal. Pig's reason for a late arrival was being "so ravenous with the exertion of finding a good crossing spot that a meal was needed," so he sniffed out a bountiful feast of grubs, berries and roots, followed by a short nap.

Charitable, welcoming and peaceful by nature, Rabbits thrive on routines and can become anxious if they have to step outside of the lines or make risky decisions. They thrive on details of the minutest kind and thoroughly enjoy creating a home of solace and beautiful tranquility. Cultivated and artistic, Rabbits are brilliant at remembering.

Rabbits are attracted to highly detailed jewelry designs that abound with cultured freshwater pearls, sapphires, faceted multicolored tourmaline and rainbow moonstone gemstone beads that flash and dance with lively colors.

Shop for Rabbit's gemstone beads:
Which Zodiac Animal Are You?
Find your year of birth in the article link below and see which zodiac animal your birth year represents. Also, discover the animal character traits and strengths that you share with those born in the same year, beginning between late January and early February.

Read the full article on the Story of the Chinese Zodiac by Jamie Smedley on the website of Fire Mountain Gems and Beads.

Jane Austen Jewelry

by Jamie Smedley, Marketing Content Development, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

"Is there a felicity in the world superior to this?" Marianne said. - Sense and Sensibility: Volume I, Chapter 9, Jane Austen

The years spanning from around 1800 to 1820 are commonly referred to as the Regency era and were renowned for a simpler, less complicated style. The indulgent aristocratic excesses of the 1700s were replaced with a naturally elegant aesthetic in fashion and accessories that deliberately emulated the grace and poise of Roman and Greek statuary. Such simplicity in fashion brought a true appreciation for small details and quality craftsmanship. Likewise, the social manners of the era were unparalleled in polite decorum. One of the most recognized representations of this era is the much-celebrated literature of Jane Austen.

The Regency Style

Following the French revolution, fashion was transformed with flowing under-bust column gowns in fine, filmy fabrics and delicate floral accents of ribbon and embroidery. White was the dominant color of the age, but it was almost always accented with floral-inspired colors that were incorporated onto bonnets, floor-length redingote jackets, belts, reticule bags and Spencer jackets. The jewelry and accessories were simple in comparison to the heavy, fussy styles of previous decades--being instead uncomplicated in construction and focusing on one or two main materials that complemented each other in balanced harmony.
It was frequent for a woman to own complete parures, or matching sets, of jewelry that included earrings, a ring, a necklace of either long or short length, a brooch and two bracelets. Sometimes, for eveningwear, a matching diadem or tiara and a jeweled belt were also worn. The complete set was never worn at the same time. Only a few pieces were selected to don at one time, as a less-is-more attitude towards accessories was adopted.

The Regency Color Palette

Choosing the right colors to translate the Regency look into jewelry is one of the most important elements. kock-lee-co, first recorded as a color name in 1795, was a saturated poppy red with hints of pink and orange. This color today can be achieved with the use of padparadscha, hyacinth and Indian red Swarovski crystal beads.

Jonquil, primrose and evening primrose were all varying shades of yellow akin to the blooms they were called after. These yellow colors added warm, optimistic color to the Regency palette. Sunny jonquil and sand opal Swarovski crystal colors can closely translate these colors. Pomona, a dark shade of apple green was named for the Greek goddess of fruiting orchards. Paris green was similar to chrysoprase in hue and was popular because it was the first colorfast green available. Unfortunately, it was produced by mixing copper arsenic powders and other toxic chemicals. Pomona and Paris green colors can be incorporated into jewelry with the use of palace green opal and erinite Swarovski crystal colors as well as green quartz and apple green chrysoprase gemstone beads.

Of course, the staple colors of white, Spanish brown, dove grey, powder blue, pale lilac, peach blossom and wild rose were incorporated into the everyday wardrobe in great abundance. Today, jewelry designers often use ivory instead of a crisp white to give their Regency-inspired jewelry designs the look of age.
Another color name that may surprise is that of puce (p-YOU-ss), the French word for flea. Indeed, the color was known to be similar to the brownish purple-red of old blood that could be found in the pests. Incredibly, even with its odd name origin, puce was one of the top fashion colors used! Easily incorporate the puce color into jewelry designs by using garnet gemstone beads or Swarovski crystal maroon pearls or ruby and burgundy crystal colors.
To appreciate these key colors, it is important to be familiar with the color names of the age that were both curious and puzzling. For instance, the color coquelicot, pronounced

Recreate This Style

Regency-era jewelry designers valued quality over quantity when it came to materials, selecting high quality precious and semi-precious gemstone beads such as emerald, sapphire, citrine, ruby, garnet, onyx, amethyst, chrysoprase, aquamarine, peridot, topaz, bright "Persian blue" turquoise and of course cultured freshwater pearls. Fine gold-filled and sterling silver metals were used and often times, they were mixed together in floral filigree designs that echoed the embroidery seen on empire-waist gowns.

This secret locket consisted of a picture of just the eye of a beloved person with perhaps the eyebrow and a wisp of hair on the temple showing. The secret love locket was a way to discreetly hold your love near your heart at all times. You can emulate these portrait styles by embedding a loved one's printed likeness into pourable resin, encapsulating it under a clear glass cabochon in a mounting or decoupage it with Mod Podge.
The most common jewelry styles worn were a single strand of beads knotted together with a fantastic clasp, a fine gold chain necklace with dainty crystal drops with matching earrings or a petite portrait brooch. Pearl strands and velvet ribbon were commonly paired with faceted gemstone beads or cameo sets. Hair jewelry was also highly popular at this time including combs, pins, picks and tiaras. The tradition of a "lover's eye" locket was also the height of fashionable accessories.
Opera length necklaces that went to the bottom of the rib cage and chokers that rested on the collarbone were the most popular necklace styles worn. All manner of earring lengths were seen and they often included a poetic influence, incorporating bows, ovals and teardrops.

Overall, jewelry designs tended to be heartfelt with deep personal meanings, being small in scale and sentimental in nature. Incorporate symbols popular to the Regency era with charms, drops and components in Greek key patterns, acorns, doves, wheat sheaves, feathers, miniature portraits, lockets, cameos and floral mosaics.