Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Secret I Can't Keep Quiet!

"The way I got into frit was really quite simple-it was my search for an intense, hot pink transparent glass."

Never has the search for the elusive vibrant pink glass yielded such a wonderful creation! I've been waiting patiently for Val Cox, the fritmaster who introduced the frit frenzy to the current glass beadmaking world, to write her book. She has unveiled it to the world on her website: Frit Secrets: A Flameworker's Guide to Using Reactive Glass Frits.

Since 1999, I've been making glass beads but I could never master frit and make it sing like Val. Always willing to share, Val opens the flood gates of her frit knowledge and shares her techniques. There are chapters on Furnance Blown Glass, Frit Manufacturers, Frit Grind Sizes, COE, Base Glass, Five Special Colors, Color Review, Applying Frit and more.

Each chapter is comprehensive and full of tips and common sense tips. The bonus is Val's recommendations that come from her extensive frit testing. I particularly appreciated the chapter on color since I've been working on using color more effectively in my work.

Val does careful color studies of each frit then takes all of the pictures herself. Her photography is luscious - I just want to reach out, pick up her beads and lick each one of them! (Oops did I say that out loud?! wink!)

I've acquired a stash of Val's frit. Although I've been unable to create a lovely frit bead, I never parted with the frit hoping that somehow the frit goddess would visit. She's finally come to visit in the form of Val's book. I'm re-energized to get the frit back out and try again. I'm thankful Val has shared her secrets and I won't keep her secrets quiet!

(All Photos courtesy of Val Cox.)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Creating Crystal Jewelry

(Photo Credit: Creative Publishing International)

Laura McCabe has written a luscious volume full of vibrant Swarovski crystal jewelry. Who among us doesn't love the sparkle and color of Swarovski crystal? Bicones, faceted rounds, rings, rondelles, one of my favorites - margaritas and rivolis! Combined with seed beads to create bezels, Laura is a master at making the beads and crystals sing with color and sparkle. Included are Laura's most notable designs, the Rings and Things Necklace, the Three-Strand Rivoli Bracelet and the Crystal Burst Ring.

The book is organized into seven instructional chapters followed then by the crystal jewelry projects. Chapter one is a brief but comprehensive history of cut crystals. Chapter two is a detailed discussion of the types of seed beads and crystals used in the book's projects. Chapter three describes tools and materials. The four basic stitches needed to create the projects is the topic of chapter four.

Beaders are resourceful, they can make beads mimic almost anything a metalsmith can do. The bezel is a good example. Seed bead bezels and open-back bezels are described in chapter five. The resourcefulness continues with chapter six where the reader learns to create a toggle out of seed beads. Chapter seven is like the cherry on a sundae, a final, sweet sprinkling of sparkle - embellishments and then it's on to the projects.

In the chapters that teach a off loom technique, there are pictures of completed steps. It might have been helpful to include pictures of the step in progress but there are detailed written directions that may do just as well.

What I love about the projects is the "Beading time" given at the top of the project. It gives you an idea of how long it will take you to do a project. There's also a little synopsis that gives you an overview of the project. Sets the tone and the direction which I find very helpful. On pages 29-31 there are guidelines for bezeling rivolis and other crystals that is worth the price of the book.

The techniques in this book can be used with artbeads to vividly highlight the colors and characteristics of a special cabachon or bead. An art bead can take you in a unique and interesting direction - flameworked disks will have a distinctly modern twist. Try it, you'll like it!