Buried Treasure: AJE Jewelry Challenge

boxes with art beads

This is a slightly out of date photo of my art bead collection. I have since filled every compartment in these four boxes, and moved into a fifth and six boxes.

The first challenge of 2016 for the Art Jewelry Elements blog is called “Buried Treasure.”  We were challenged to dig into our stashes of art beads and components to create jewelry.

It seems I am not the only one who has an easier time collecting art beads than using them. Why are they such a challenge to use?

For me, the challenge is my fear of not coming up with a design that does the artisan component justice. Each of these beads, pendants, bars, charms, etc. are miniature works of art. Imagine putting an original Picasso in a black plastic frame from the local craft shop. The horror!  I also have a tendency to think I need to come up with an elaborate design for my art beads. But all they usually need is something relatively simple to show them off properly.

I have been curating a growing collection of art beads and components in the last few years. I have beady goodness in ceramic, lampwork, metal, enamel, and polymer clay from about a dozen different artists.  I made a concerted effort to conquer my fear and embrace this challenge.  I completed six pieces of jewelry, using components from nine different artisans. That doesn’t make a noticeable dent in my collection, but it’s a start.

The Buried Treasures Uncovered

When I acquired this ceramic bracelet bar last year it was with the intention of making a bracelet as a birthday gift for a friend. The birthday came and went with no ideas on how to make a bracelet. Plan B was to give the bracelet as a Christmas gift.  That also didn’t happen.  Bracelet bars stump me (especially the kind with two holes on each end), and yet I continue to collect them.  In the end, I worked my way out of my designer’s block by using lengths of chain rather than stringing beads as originally envisioned. But I had to add some beaded dangles. Had to.

Well behaved women bracelet

This ceramic bracelet bar is stamped with a favorite quote. It’s paired with antiqued brass chain and Czech glass bead dangles plus a floral lobster clasp.  The bracelet bar is by Cindy Kovar of Captured Moments on etsy.

Two years ago I participated in a design challenge using “sparkling rocks” lampwork beads by Maryse Fritzsch-Thillens of Glass Bead Art Lampwork.  I received a single sparkling orange bead from the challenge hostess and immediately had to visit Maryse’s shop to buy more of these “rocks.” I have several strands. The blue-green in these turned out to be a perfect pairing with the hints of turquoise in these ceramic spikes by Petra Carpreau of Scorched Earth.  The dark oxidized copper ear wires are also from my artisan stash, made by Rocki Adams (no relation) of Rocki’s Metalwork.

Lampwork and ceramic spike earrings

These earrings pair sparkling lampwork beads by Maryse Fritzsch-Thillens with bronze-topped ceramic spikes by Petra Carpreau. The art beads are joined with oxidized copper wire wraps and dangle from darkened copper ear wires.

I haven’t counted them, but I’m fairly confident I have more ceramic focals from Lesley Watt of Thea Elements in my stash than from any other artist. I went a little crazy ordering her bunnies, turtles, and foxes last year. Every glaze color combination is the best, so I needed one of each. I found some Czech glass flowers – sort of hibiscus-y shaped – that coordinated well with the blue-green glaze on this turtle. I may re-do this with some blue Swarovski pearls in place of the gold. Or not.

Blue-green turtle necklace

The ceramic turtle pendant is by Lesley Watt. It’s paired with Czech glass flowers and Swarovski pearls on antiqued brass chain.

Since I came up with a way to use that first bracelet bar, I decided to tackle another for this challenge. I won this ceramic ticket stub with a set of coordinating beads in a Facebook auction group. It’s by Gaea Cannaday.  I didn’t use the full set of beads, which included a little red heart, for the bracelet. Instead, I wired a few of the ceramic beads to antiqued brass rolo chain and added some Czech glass flower dangles. The bracelet fastens with a heart-shaped lobster clasp and Vintaj natural brass chain extender.

Ticket stub bracelet

This sweet ticket stub bracelet bar is by Gaea Cannaday, as are the three coordinating ceramic beads. It’s paired with antiqued brass rolo chain and Czech glass flowers.

Another pair of earrings made their way out of the stash for this challenge. The swirly splotchy (in a good way!) patterns on these stone-textured orange lampwork beads by Genea Crivello of Genea Beads seemed a perfect complement to the blue-green splotches and bumps on the enameled metal “numisticks” by Kimberly Rogers of Numinosity.  The copper ear wires are my favorite shape – elfin – from Rocki’s Metalwork.

Rustic Orange dangle earrings

These rustic earrings are a pairing of lampwork beads by Genea Crivello with enameled tin “numisticks” by Kimberly Rogers. Accented with natural and dark oxidized copper wire.

Last but certainly not least, I created a simple beaded chain necklace for this wonderful ceramic orca pendant by Jenny Davies-Reazor.  I have pulled this pendant out of my stash numerous times intending to make a necklace. I don’t know why I was stumped for so long. Okay, yes I do. It’s the same reason I get blocked with any other artisan component: how to do the piece justice. I set it next to every kind of blue bead in my stash, from sodalite and dumortierite to Czech glass and beach glass. I’m not thrilled with the relative size of the twisted jump rings between the beaded links, but I do like the look of these blue glass nuggets with the pendant.  This one may get a re-do when I find jump rings or chain links that are just right.

Orca pendant necklace

This ceramic orca focal is by Jenny Davies-Reazor. After pulling out every blue bead in my collection, I landed on these blue glass nuggets for the the beaded necklace. The back is finished with antiqued silver plated rolo chain.

This was a great challenge and I hope I can maintain some of the momentum and bring more of my precious art beads out of my stash and into the light.  Many thanks to the Art Jewelry Elements blog team for hosting this challenge. Be sure to visit the contributors and other guest artists to see more uncovered buried treasures jewelry designs.

AJE team:

Lesley Watt
Lindsay Starr
Caroline Dewison
Jennifer Cameron
Jenny Davies-Reazor
Susan Kennedy
Niky Sayers


Terri – Terrri’s Blooming ideas
Shai – Shai’s Ramblings
Melissa – Bead Recipes
Tammy – Paisley  Lizard  (That’s me!)
Sarajo – SJ Designs
Kathy – Bay Moon Designs
Karin – Ginko et Colquelicot
Lola – Bead Lola Bead
Samantha – Wescott Jewelry
Mona – Bijoux Gem

36 thoughts on “Buried Treasure: AJE Jewelry Challenge

  1. Kathy Lindemer

    You made some great pieces. I love both bracelets. You some unknown reason I find bracelets to be the most challenging to make. Coming up with the design is rough. You did a wonderful job. I love your earrings. The components you used are beautiful. Well done!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks so much, Kathy. My theory on why I am frequently stumped by bracelet designs is that I don’t wear bracelets. I feel more inspired by necklaces, and especially earrings. I am never without earrings.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Cynthia. I started my art beads collection about 2 years ago and am wondering how I didn’t notice all these talented component artists sooner.

  2. Lola

    You certainly have some beautiful treasures! I love all of the designs you created, but those “swirly splotchy” earrings are stunning … I love all of those colors!

  3. Jenny

    I have a hoard too! Art beads are truly little pieces of art and sometimes you need to wait for the right idea or the right accompaniment! Picasso – that made me snort my coffee. Tammy – thanks for joining us this month! As you are always SO prolific – I wanted to not miss anything:
    1. Bracelet – Perfect! Great colors. Fun to wear when the dangles move!
    2. Scorched Earth?! For the win every time!
    3. I think the gold vibrates visually with the places where the glaze “pulled” and links golden. Like it.
    4. Great Gaea, and Genea/Numinosuty? Man those are brilliant!
    5. I can understand why you hesitated – my Orca is a large pendant! You said you weren’t thrilled with it yet. I wonder if a multi strand necklace would be an idea to consider? Since the focal IS large? Jus thinking out loud –

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks so much, Jenny. I will definitely try a multi-strand re-do for the orca. I love the pendant and didn’t want the neckline to get too busy for it. But I feel like the current design is not quite there either.

  4. Karin

    Oh wow! What a great collection! I couldn’t choose a favorite, they are just so beautiful, you chose amazing beads to feature and you made magic with them. It’s funny I have the same problem with the bracelet bars and tried one too!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Karin. I think I need to keep my bracelet bar momentum and work out designs for the others in my stash before I lose the mojo. 😉

  5. Leona

    Nice work Tammy – I’m impressed that you got on a good roll and broke your “fear” of bracelet bars. I like the gold with the turtle and the hibiscus-y beads look like a perfect match. Also – Rocki! – She used to be my go to artist for earwires – love them. Thanks for reminding me about her.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks, Leona. The gold beads with the turtle are indeed growing on me. The lighting wasn’t so great when I made the necklace so when I saw it in the photos, they weren’t the color I thought they were. But the more I look, the more I like it.

  6. Mona Arnott

    Wow you were busy! Glad you were able to get that momentum going. The pieces are all lovely and I wouldn’t change any of them. That’s your right though as the owner. After all we all want to be happy with what we offer.
    Lesley’s turtle is my favourite and I think the gold pearls work nicely with it.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Mona. It’s always helpful to get second or third opinions on a design. And still reserve the right to go against the popular vote. 😉

  7. Shaiha

    Wow Tammy! You certainly put a small part of your treasure to good use. They are all gorgeous and would be rather hard to choose a favorite.

  8. Veralynne

    Wow, you really did go treasure hunting. I love them all, but the first one..I totally adore that saying!!! And I love how the bracelets came out…

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Veralynne. I was happy with the bracelets once I broke through my design block. Chain to the rescue. LOL.

  9. niky

    What a beautiful colection of jewellery you made Tammy, I love every piece! Your have an eye for picking out beautifully matching beads, your designs are fab and your wire work is beautifully neat! Plus you have amazing taste in art beads, I really dont think I could pick a favorite!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Niky. I’ve tried to make messy wire wraps – I really like them in other people’s designs – but mine more often than not turn out neat and tidy. Who knew I’d need to practice being messy?

  10. Lesely Watt

    Prolific as ever Tammy and you always create such lovely designs – a pleasure to see my beads featured…fantastic matching with the Czech glass flowers. SO much variation in your pieces too….hard to pick a favourite!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Lesley. As you know, I adore your focals. I am on a mission this year to get more of them out of my stash and into designs.

  11. Beth Petricoin

    I’m glad to know I’m not the only hoarder of materials. 😉 You’ve done justice to all your wonderfully unique stash pieces. Lovely, lovely designs… all of them!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks so much, Beth. And I prefer to consider myself a curator of miniature works of art rather than a hoarder of beads. LOL

  12. Sarajo Wentling

    Wow! I’m so impressed with how productive you were. Lots of good stuff going on there. I too get stumped with bracelet bars… you might have just inspired me to play with one I’ve had for a long time!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Sarajo. Bracelet bars are fun to collect and admire. But they do seem to be my biggest design challenge.

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