Welcome to the Bead Soup Swap & Create reveal!
What is bead soup? In this instance, it’s a mix of different colors and styles of beads. For this bead soup swap, jewelry designers from all over the world were paired with a partner, swapped beads, and created pieces from what they were sent, tapping into their own bead stash. Having a partner send you beads helps push you out of your comfort zone and inspire creativity.
Per the rules, you *must* use the pendant and the clasp you were sent (although they do not have to be in the same piece) and are encouraged to use the accent beads, along with whatever you have in your own inventory. Participants are posting their work on blogs, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest today.
A list of the participants can be found by clicking here or at the bottom of this post. I hope you will take some time to visit these creative people!
My partner is Lisa Long, who describes herself as a jewelry designing, picture taking, renovating, fiber felting, art loving, witching, nature loving, book reading drink master. I had never chatted with Lisa before she became my bead partner, and I really enjoyed getting to know her. In my opinion, that’s the nicest part of any swap.
This is the bead soup Lisa sent me:
The handmade ceramic fish pendant is made by Michelle McCarthy, an artist whose work I’ve admired and purchased in the past — but never anything like this! Lisa also sent a sterling silver toggle, silver accent beads, various Czech glass, African beads with an iridescent coating, Greek ceramic spacers, and (missing on school photo day) matte glass disks. I am a sucker for Czech glass and the sparkling tiny tiny beads are my favorite.
When I created this design challenge, I hoped it would help me recapture the creative spark I used to have. I started making jewelry in 2003, but in 2012, I was waylaid by chronic Lyme disease and was out of commission until last year. Sitting back down at the bench after all that time, I faced brain fog and a complete inability to create. I struggled with that, and decided what I needed was some outside inspiration, so voila, design challenge time!
The first piece I made did not come easily. When I looked at the fish pendant, I had an idea, but that idea refused to work in actuality. I kept trying to force it to work and ended up completely frustrated and feeling creatively stunted. After a stern talking-to by my Rational Self, I let go of my plan and started pulling beads, wire, and chain based on the brown accents in the fish.
The airy copper chain made me think of bubbles (bloop bloop!), and I wired some of the Czech glass and Greek ceramic disks together and framed them in the chain.
I’m pleased with how this turned out and really, it’s much better than my original idea.
I used the last of the Greek ceramic in a pair of matching earrings.
Next I created my piece using the other required element, the toggle, and added the large Czech rondelles as well.
I LOVE this necklace — I love anything with dangly bits! I used a large lampwork glass bead I’ve had in my stash for ten years, shell beads I’ve had even longer than that, and made the chain by hand.
I made a pair of earrings to go with the necklace with two of the Czech glass beads and some Thai silver fish beads from my stash.
After I got the pendant and toggle sorted, I decided to use as many beads as I could from the soup Lisa sent me and create an ocean-inspired theme throughout. Some of the pieces incorporate just a few of the beads, with so many of them inspired by the tiny super-sparkly Czech glass. And when I say tiny, I mean tiny.
Fortunately, I can make wrapped loops like this in my sleep. There’s something very satisfying about the process.
This piece incorporated the rest of the large Czech rondelles. Even though I only had two beads left, I was determined to use all Lisa sent!
I found the Karen Hill Tribes silver shell charm, leather cord, and a cool length of chain in my stash. Simple but I quite like it. The ocean theme continued with a fish clasp I had on hand.
I love jelly fish as long as I’m not swimming with them and I decided I had to create my version out of beads. This necklace contains lots of the tiny Czech glass, a random lampwork bead I had in a drawer, a chalcedony oval, and delicate sterling chain. The fish clasp is like the one above.
The next piece incorporates the silver accent beads Lisa sent me. I added lampwork glass I made and a sterling silver focal that reminds me of a shell. This one also has a fish clasp.
Next is a bracelet, and I used all of the African beads Lisa sent. The cluster makes me think of a sea anemone and the colors of the Czech button beads, lampwork glass, and silver fish carried on the ocean theme.
This next piece took the most work. I wanted to make something that invoked the idea of tangled seaweed and ocean floor grasses, or maybe even nets or wicker fish traps. I made these tangled beads from scratch. I wrapped 20 gauge wire around and around a mandrel, then ran it through a liver of sulphur bath to patinate. I brushed off some of the patina for depth and using 26 gauge wire, “sewed” on my favorite sparkling beads from Lisa, and finally used pliers to twist the tangles up even more.
I love Green Girl Studios pewter beads, and I had been hoarding this seashell pendant for years, waiting for the right inspiration to do it justice. To carry on the seaweed/net idea, I ran various lengths of 2mm link chain and more of the tiny sparklies through the bottom of the pendant, which is double-sided (how cool is that?). The chain element was something I originally wanted to do with the fish pendant, so I was quite happy that idea translated into another necklace!
I dug into my stash and found multi-faceted aqua ora beads and I added two lengths of sterling silver chain — one patinated, one not. Using bright silver as well as oxidized metals nods to the play of light on the water above as you swim beneath the surface.
I added a Thai silver starfish clasp to tie it all together.
I used more of the tiny sparklies, aqua ora beads, and two toggles (liberated of their bars) to make matching earrings.
This piece would never have come to fruition without the inspiration of the bitty Czech beads Lisa sent (thank you, Lisa!).
My final piece continued my love affair with those sparkly Czech glass beads (I wasn’t kidding when I said they were my favorites!) and I really wanted to push myself to use as many as I could. I also wanted to use the remaining silver beads Lisa sent. Digging through my stash for more ocean themed components, I found these sea urchin lampwork beads made by Magdalena Ruiz and made a long necklace.
I was able to match up the colors in the large sea urchin bead with 3mm dark turquoise glass, 4mm matte brown glass, and 8mm Swarovski crystals. Lots of work, lots of links, and totally worth it.
In the end, I only had these beads left over….
… and I already have plans for them in the near future!
Thank you so much for reading! Please visit the participants below!