Saturday, January 30, 2016

What's on My Bench???

This week's episode is from JET member Mollie Ann of RoughMagicCreations. She is going to discuss upcycling.

Back in October I wrote about my plans for reclaiming beads from the vintage necklace pictured on the left, which I had unearthed while prospecting for treasure in a nearby antiques mall.

Well. That project is "in Beta," but while letting those plans incubate, I couldn't resist attacking the necklace on the right, discovered in the same semi-archaeological site.

Strung on its irredeemable strip of leather, this piece alternates nine fat tube beads with stations of heishi, all in a russet, reddish brown palette. To my eye, the beads appear to be Abo, African beads from Ghana, but they may be horn, bone, or something else entirely. Whatever they are, I love their primitive, rustic look - très trendy.

For compatible beads, I had several choices ready to hand: vintage lucite rounds, porcelain and/or Czech glass, or perhaps some African copper trade beads.

Tinkering with this, that and the other, I began to feel a bit like Goldilocks:
these are too shiny; these are too dark; these are too-- well, you see what I mean.

In short, nothing I tried delivered the "Aha!" I was looking for. 

Then, while I was working on a bracelet for my niece, my fickle and flighty Muse returned, whispered "Brass and wood," and -- as is often the case -- surprised me.

My niece loves her bracelet ... 

And I love my necklace almost too much to sell. The operative word is "almost."

For me one of the most rewarding things about designing jewelry is the thrill of that moment when, after all the trial and (mostly) error, things suddenly fall into place and you know you've got it right. 

A note about reusing vintage components: Whether you call it upcycling, repurposing or reclaiming, discovering new ways to use previously loved finds is eco-friendly, earth conscious, and, when your oldies are earthy, natural and boho chic, downright smart in the bargain. Not to mention the fun of it all -- the hunting and gathering, the planning and learning, the creation of a unique new design.

Little wonder recycling is trending!

Thank you Mollie for that glimpse into your creative process. Please return next week for another episode of What's on My Bench, this time from JET member Phylly.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day

When I started doing my research for this article, I was surprised to find out romance is not in the history of Valentine's Day. The background for Valentine's Day is the pagan festival Lupercalia celebrated by the Romans. Lupercalia was a fertility festival which celebrated Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture and celebrated the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.

There are three different legends involving a St. Valentine. The first legend, involves a priest named Valentine who served in Rome during the third century. Emperor Claudius II decided single men made better soldier so he made it illegal for soldiers to marry. Valentine continued to marry soldiers, defying Claudius II. Emperor Claudius II found out about Valentine's actions and had the priest beheaded.

Image result for claudius ii
Emperor Claudius II

The second legend has Emperor Claudius II encouraging men to take on several wives. In this scenario, Valentine was cutting out parchment hearts to remind the men of their vows and God's love. This may be the origin of hearts on Valentine's Day. It is believed that this Valentine wore an amethyst ring in the shape of a cupid. This may be the link for amethyst as the birthstone for February.

Red Heart Bracelet, Antique Copper Chain & Filigree Charm, Hand Forged Clasp, Double Strand Bracelet... Heart Jewelry
Bracelet by DesignsbyCher

Austrian Gilt Brooch, Vintage, Amethyst Toned
Vintage Brooch offered by BeadsMe

The third legend has Valentine killed for trying to help jailed Christians escape prison. According to this legend, Valentine performed a miracle by healing a jailer's daughter while Valentine was in prison. Before Valentine was put to death, he wrote the daughter a note and signed it "from your Valentine," an expression we still use today. By the Middle Ages, St. Valentine became one of the most popular saints.

At the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine's Day. By then, the pagan festival of Lupercalia was outlawed. By the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed that St. Valentine's Day was the beginning of the mating season for birds hence, the frequent appearance of birds in valentines.

Image result for Pope Gelasius
Pope Gelasius
Written valentines did not appear until approximately 1400. Charles,the Duke of Orleans is credited with writing the first valentine to his wife, Bonnie, who lived in France.  The Duke of Orleans was imprisoned in England for 25 years during which he wrote over 60 love poems to Bonnie. The oldest love letter in the English language was written by Margery Brews to her fiance John Paston in 1477. She declared her love to him, and promised to wait for him, if he declared his undying love for her. She must have received a positive response because the couple did marry. Written valentines became all the rage in the 1800s. Popularity soared in the 1900s and the practice is still followed today. Here I thought it was just a Hallmark holiday!

Barbara Moore

Saturday, January 23, 2016

What's on My Bench???

Today's episode is from JET member Gaetana Parris of SatinDollCo. She is going to tell us about her last order of 2015.

I guess it's a finishing touch for 2015 that I got my last custom order on exactly New Year Eve. One of my father's regular customers was standing around and talking. Through the conversation I ended up telling him that I'm a fashion designer by trade but have owned my own business since 2007 making and selling jewelry and accessories. Long conversation short, he wanted me to make him a custom bracelet and necklace. We ironed out all the details and he paid the deposit so it's time to get to work.

I pulled out my beading board, grab my stretch cord, cutting pliers,wooden beads in red black and green and some glass beads.

As per his design, he wanted a bracelet in red, black and green. I showed him the picture of the bracelet I restrung for my aunt to show the bead size I would use and he like the design with the extra bead. So I laid the beads out in the red, black, and green configuration mixing some glass beads with the wooden beads. So that they design wouldn't get too boring.

I then strung the bead configuration on the bead cord and knotted it several times. As you may notice, the pattern is a little bit different then on the board because I had to go back twice and restring it so it was the right wrist size.

I then went into my bead stash and found a large glass bead to include as the finishing touch.

I then knotted it several times to finish it off.

Now it's completed. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough beads to even start the necklace he wanted. Which means I'll leave that for my next WOMB post. So this custom order ended up being my last of 2015 and my first of 2016.Stay tuned you don't want to miss Part II!

Thank you Gaetana. Please return next week for another episode of What's on My Bench??? from Mollie Ann of the JETs.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Get Healthy in 2016

If you are trying to eat healthier in 2016, Gaetana, from SatinDollCo of the Jetteam, has some delicious recipes for nutritious smoothies and infused waters.
With each new year, comes every one's resolution to become more healthy, eat better and start to exercise. I have made these resolutions as well, but have not had much success to date. Despite that, I am going to share four quick and easy recipes for healthier drinks any time of the year.

Smoothies have been very popular for a number of years. You do not have to purchase them at a store either. Here are some recipes that you can make a home, with a blender.

Strawberry Banana Smoothie (serves 1 person)
You'll need:
-half of a banana
-9 strawberries halved
-1 cup of vanilla yogurt
-ice (6 cubes) if the strawberries aren't frozen
Simply blend together until the ice or frozen strawberries are completely crushed and everything is mixed together. 


Strawberry Blueberry Banana Smoothie (serves 1 person)
You'll need:
-half of a banana
-9 strawberries
-1 handful of blueberries
-1 cup of vanilla yogurt
-ice (6 cubes) if the strawberries aren't frozen

Blend together until everything is mixed completely.

Tip: Never buy frozen fruit. It's extremely expensive. Try to buy fresh fruit if it is available to you. Cut the fruit immediately when you arrive at home. Rinse off the fruit and place them in a food storage bag or container. Be sure to put them in the freezer right away. By doing this, you always have fruit when you need it. Additionally,  if it's already frozen you won't have to add the ice which adds water to your smoothie.You'll be thanking me later.
Now if your not a huge water drinker, like myself,  you'll love this infused fruit water. It also kills two birds with one stone in my book. You get your daily fruit intake and the water that is the recommended allowance. You can try this with any type of fruit. Below are two examples.  


Orange Infused Water

You'll need:
-Cup (one shown in the picture was purchase from Walmart and includes the piece to place your fruit into.Priced around $6)
-Half orange cut into slices.

Let chill for a few hours or overnight. Drink and refill once. After the one refill throw away the fruit. Otherwise the fruit will be bitter. Orange infused water is refreshing and has a great citrus flavor.


Strawberry Orange Infused Water

You'll need:
-Cup (one shown in the picture was purchase from Walmart and includes the piece to place your fruit into.Priced around $6)
-Half of orange cut into slices.
-4 strawberries cut and halved

Let chill for a few hours or over night. Drink and refill once. After the one refill, throw away the fruit. If you're a lover of strawberries you'll really enjoy this one.
Our favorite drink, which is not shown,  is cucumber water. This one hands down gets us to drink plenty of water. It is the most refreshing and quenches your thirst.
Now you have no excuse to get healthy. We don't either for that matter. Get healthy, it's good for you!!


Saturday, January 16, 2016

What's on My Bench??

Welcome to the New Year! Our first episode of the New Year comes from JET member Mollie Ann of RoughMagicCreations. She talks about new beginnings.

Happy New Year Everybody! Let's play "Out with the Old, In with the New!"

When I opened my first Etsy shop in the late spring of 2008, I listed a one of a kind necklace named "Earth Mother." Yes, those were the long ago days when we were getting creative with names for our jewelry. (Google and SEO soon put paid to that, but it was fun while it lasted, wasn't it?)

Earth Mother was an eclectic mix of handmade wooden beads, laboriously hand carved by my husband Joe, some aqua terra and gold lace jasper gemstones, some Czech glass roses, a few teeny Swarovski crystals and a sterling silver clasp.

Months passed, and, although "Earthy" got a bit of attention and her fair share of hearts and views and even appeared on the once coveted Front Page at Etsy, she languished in my shop. After more renewals than I care to remember, I decided the poor old gal needed a vacation. A long vacation, as it turned out.

Years passed and, if Joe hadn't occasionally asked me what I planned to do about Earth Mother, I'd probably have forgotten all about her. 

Then, a few weeks ago, while digging through a box of "early Mollie" creations looking for something else entirely, I caught a glimpse of her peering up at me through the confusion. 

An Aha Moment! 

I took her apart, dispensed with the crystals and the little gold lace jasper stones and added some brown and cream Czech glass and wee antiqued copper beads. Then I changed the silver lobster claw to one of my hand forged copper hook clasps (much earthier, dontcha know?).

And here she is today, an adjustable length choker necklace, ready to list on Etsy ... just as soon as I finish her new matching bracelet and earrings.

Oh, and her new name? "Rustic Bohemian Necklace"

But to Joe and me, this lady will always be our dear old "Earth Mother."

Thank you Mollie. Please visit Mollie's shops RoughMagicCreations or RoughMagicHolidays for all your jewelry needs. If it's jewelry supplies you're looking for try Mollie's shop, RoughMagicalSupplies. If it's vintage you are into, Mollie has a shop for you too, MirandaMercantile. Please return next week for another episode of What's on My Bench???

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Making Syrniki with Gaiane

Today's blog post was contributed by Gaiane, from BellaVeaJewelry. Another great recipe from one of our Jetteam members.
"My mom has made this recipe since we were little.  It's a Russian Farmer's Cheese Pancake Recipe also called Syrniki.  We make it with as little ingredients as possible to keep it simple and more healthy. Farmers' cheese is the main ingredient and my mom usually makes her own and brings me some : ) However, you can also purchase it in some health food stores. I did include the recipe if someone wants to make their own. "

Syrniki Recipe 
1 cup Farmers cheese 
1 egg
1 pinch salt
2 tsp sugar 
2 tbsp flour 

"*Tip  Use as little flour as possible. It just needs flour to help keep it together.  If farmer's cheese is on a dryer side and doesn't have a lot of moisture, you would need less flour. If it is very moist you can squeeze out the excess water or use more flour.  In the photo below, you can see that the excess water in the farmer's cheese has been drained well. 
To make the Syrniki, first combine all the ingredients with 1 - 1.5 tbsp of flour.  Form this into flat patties while lightly covering them with the remainder of the flour.  The patties will be very soft, which will also result in soft and fluffy pancakes.  Cook them covered on a medium heat in a pan with butter.   Carefully turn them when one side is brown and cook on the other side covered as well.  After it's cooked, you can top it with fruit, preserve, sour cream, honey or a combination of your favorites.  The great thing about this recipe is that you can make these with gluten free, all purpose flour and they will come out great!"

Homemade Farmer's Cheese Recipe
1/2 gallon of organic whole milk
1/2 cup plain yogurt whole milk
1 tbsp lemon juice
**Makes about 2 cups of farmers cheese 
"Combine all ingredients together in a large pot and put on low heat.  Mix occasionally so it doesn't stick.  It will start separating right as it's about to boil.  You will start seeing the pieces of cheese and water.  Let it separate for about 2-3 min or until you see the water more clear and no milk.  Turn off the stove and let it sit there for 5-10 min.  Take it out and drain it.  Also you can use a cheese cloth to get as much water out of the cheese as possible.  And that's how you can make farmer's cheese at home."


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Travelling Abroad Part Two

This week, Jennifer from the Jetteam, shares her photos of torcs from her adventure in Europe. You can see Jennifer's work in her shop, WearablebyDesign.

"While in Europe I saw a few exhibits featuring Celtic and Scandinavian hoards.  I was certainly drawn to the torcs and thought others might enjoy seeing what I saw!"

Torcs are neckwear popular in many places in the Western World and throughout several historical periods.  They are made of metal generally, and are semi-permanent – meaning they are difficult to put on and off and therefore usually kept around the neck.  They are thought to make reference to a person’s status within a tribe, and be a version of portable wealth.  They were worn by men, women, warriors, statesmen, children and statues and come in many sizes and styles.

Most of the torcs seen today have been found in burial sites , but more often found in buried hoards.  It is unknown if they were buried as offerings or (more likely) were secreted away in times of conflict.  Some hoards seem to have been part of a workshop specializing in the making of torcs as they appear to be in mid manufacture when they were found.



Most torcs are of a spiral style that are tapered at each end and close with a simple hook and eye. In the early Bronze Age, torcs were made of bronze, but later, they were made of gold or silver.  This twisted spiral type was usually made in the lost wax method of casting.  A variation on the twisted spiral was twisted wire bundles where casting was not necessary to create the torc.

The above torc was so large it is doubtful it was worn around the neck of a person.  It is an excellent example of a wire torc.


Some torcs are highly decorated and use a variety of techniques to create.  Many have terminal ends rather than a simple hook and eye.

These silver torcs look nearly modern to our eye.  They were created as an extremely heavy chain and were approximately 12 inches in diameter.  I’m sure they were quite heavy. 

I hope you enjoyed seeing the beauty and luxury of the peoples of the ancient past.