Saturday, August 27, 2016

Sunday, August 21, 2016

How To Make A Boho Chic Soldered Crystal Point Ring

I just finished making this awesome ring for my daughter Erica, who had asked me to make her a Boho style amethyst crystal point ring. 

I snapped a few photos during the process, so I thought I'd share them here with you. This is not a complete, standard step-by-step tutorial, but just a simple glimpse into the process that will maybe offer you some creative inspiration!

Check out how I made this pretty, awesome soldered crystal ring!

Soldering level: Beginner to Intermediate

Materials & tools needed:




It all started with a rough crystal point bead! Who doesn't love purple amethyst crystals? My daughter Erica picked this amethyst crystal bead out of one of my bead boxes and asked me to design it into a ring for her.

Choose a crystal or rough cut gemstone rock with a center-drilled hole. You can also use any type of  large stone bead for this project.



First you will need to form your wire in the shape of a circle to create the shank of the ring. Use your nylon jaw pliers to straighten a length of copper or silver wire - I used about 12 to 14 inches of copper wire for this ring. Straighten the wire while it is on the spool and then cut the wire with your wire cutters. 

Shape the shank of the ring (form the circle): Hold one end of the wire against your ring mandrel at the desired ring size marking on the mandrel and use your other hand to wrap the wire snugly around the mandrel two times. If you do not have a ring mandrel you can use any circular shaped object that is the size of your finger (maybe a lipstick tube or other similar sized object). Then carefully remove the wire from the mandrel. 

Hold the wire circles that you just formed in place with your soldering pliers and use your other hand to solder the wire rings together with a small amount of solder, coating the wires on all sides and binding them to each other with solder. 


Next, thread your bead onto the long tail end of your wire and push the bead down the wire until it is flush against your ring's shank.

Bring the tail end of wire that traveled through the bead down toward the ring's shank and hold it against the ring's shank. Use a drop of solder to attach the tail of wire to the ring's shank as shown in the photo above. 


Your ring should now look something like this. 

Now slide the ring back onto the mandrel and carefully wrap the long tail end of wire around the mandrel again until all of the wire is used up. If you have excess wire you can snip the remaining wire off with your wire cutters. Tuck the pointy end of wire into the other wire wraps (try to hide the end). 

Remove the ring from the mandrel and now solder the rest of the wires together, adding more solder as needed, until all of the wires are completely soldered together and your ring is formed (photo below).  



If desired, add a few small droplets of decorative solder to the ring as I did in the photo above. 

Once you are finished, make sure there are no pointy ends of wire anywhere on your ring. If there are, cover them up with a small drop of solder.

Wash, dry, polish, and enjoy your ring! 

I hope you enjoyed this mini-tutorial! Check out my books Boho Chic Jewelry and Soldered Alchemy for tons of fun jewelry soldering projects, all kinds of soldering information, beautiful jewelry and soldering inspiration! 




I hope you have a great week! 
Love, 
Laura


My broken china jewelry is always available for purchase at https://www.etsy.com/shop/dishfunctionldesigns


Jewelry design, article and images ©Laura Beth Love 2016 all rights reserved. 
Project for personal use only. Commercial use forbidden under law without the express written permission of the copyright holder.  

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Gifts From The Sea: Collecting Beach Stones and Pebbles

Each year when I visit the beach (usually Cape May, New Jersey and every few years Assateague Island, Virginia) one of my favorite things to do is walk the beach and look for unique and unusual stones and pebbles. 

I even like the word pebble - it has a soft, gentle sound that's calming. There's nothing harsh, loud or brash about the quiet pebble. 

My daughters and I stroll the shoreline, picking a few out of the sand as we walk, collecting a handful or two of favorites. Suddenly they're not just pebbles, but treasures. 

My eyes search for unusual shaped and textured stones, and I sometimes I get lucky and find a small piece of petrified wood, volcanic rock, or fossilized coral.

But I think my favorites are the plain white, completely smooth oval and egg shaped ones. They're soothing to hold and turn over in my hand and they make my fingers happy. They're truly a gift from the sea, and for that I'm so grateful.



I hope you have a great week! 
Love, 
Laura


My broken china jewelry is always available for purchase at https://www.etsy.com/shop/dishfunctionldesigns


article and images ©Laura Beth Love 2016

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Easy Scarab Bead & Wire Bangle Bracelet Tutorial

You don't have to be a jewelry expert or have tons of fancy jewelry tools to make your own wire and bead bangle bracelets! All you need are a few basic jewelry hand tools, wire, and a few focal beads. 

FAQ: "focal beads" are larger-sized beads that are the focus of the jewelry piece. They are called focal beads because of their large size, which makes them the focus of the design. Check out how easy it is to make your own wire and bead bangle bracelet with this photo tutorial!


Gathering my tools and supplies. 

Choosing my focal bead...hmm...well if you've followed my blog for a while, you probably already know how much I love scarabs! Scarab it is! 

Here is what you will need:
  • Chain nose pliers
  • Round nose pliers
  • Heavy gauge wire: copper, silver or brass (I used 16 gauge)
  • Thin gauge wire that fits your bead's hole: copper, silver, or brass (I used 22 gauge)
  • Nylon jaw (wire straightening) pliers 
  • Side cutters
  • Metal file
  • A focal bead of your choice (I used a stone scarab bead that was approx 20mm x 15 mm)
  • Ball peen hammer and bench block 
  • Bracelet mandrel or bottle or glass to shape wire around for bracelet

Our first step is to straighten the wire and then form the bracelet. Use your nylon jaw pliers to straighten a length of 16 gauge wire. I didn't measure, I just straightened about 8 inches of the end of my spool of wire.


Next wrap the straightened end of wire around your bracelet mandrel, glass or bottle. I used this vitamin bottle to form my bracelet. Note that the wire is still attached to the spool.

Now you will use your wire cutters to cut the wire, but first read this:

Important: The length of the wire you cut will determine the size of your bracelet. If you have another bangle bracelet at home that you wear a lot, you can measure it to use as a guide and then cut your wire in that same length. If not, you can measure your wrist with a tape measure or piece of string and go with that. (TIP: practice with inexpensive wire before using the good stuff!) 

Remember that this is a bangle bracelet, so it needs to be large enough to fit over your hand. You may want to make a practice one with inexpensive wire (try copper wire from hardware store) before using more expensive wire. Handcrafted jewelry making is in no way an exact science and takes a bit of trial and error, so don't feel bad about practicing and always leave a little room for error! Once you cut your wire, use your metal file to file down any sharp or pointy ends. 


Now we will form a small loop at each end of the wire, turning the loop in towards the inside of the circle. 

To do this, grip one of the ends of your wire with your round nose pliers and turn the pliers in toward the center of the wire circle to form the loop. 

Then repeat this step and make a second loop on the other end of your wire.

Now place the wire on your steel bench block and use your ball peen hammer to lightly hammer the wire, then flip it over and hammer the other side. This will harden your wire and help it to keep its shape. 

This image shows how the focal bead will be situated between the loops, closing the bangle.

Use your nylon jaw pliers to straighten a 10" length of 22 gauge wire. (TIP: Make sure the wire fits through the hole in your bead before straightening and cutting the wire. If it does not fit, use a smaller gauge wire or chose another bead.) Measure the straightened wire and then cut the wire from the spool with your wire cutters.

Thread your focal bead onto the 22 gauge wire and position the bead in the center of the wire. 

Now we will make a wrapped loop in the wire on each end of the bead. Starting on one side of the bead, use your chain nose pliers to grip the wire where it comes out of the bead. Bend the wire over the tips of your pliers making a 90 degree angle in the wire.

Now use your round nose pliers to grip the wire where you made the angle and bend the wire around the round jaw of the pliers, creating a loop. (TIP: If you have never made a loop before, practice on scrap wire first until you get it right.)

Next remove your round nose pliers from the wire and use them to grip the loop that you just made. Use your other hand to wrap the tail end of wire around itself just below the loop, wrapping it around the "neck" of the wire. Continue wrapping the wire snugly around the neck until all wire is used up. 

Use your fingers to feel the wrapped wire for any pointy ends. Use your pliers to tuck any pointy end of wire in between the previous wraps.

Repeat this process with the wire on the other side of the bead to create an identical wrapped loop on the other end of your bead. 

Next we are going to attach our bead to the loops on our bracelet, so use your pliers to gently open the bracelet loops just enough so that you can slip the wire loop from the bead onto the open bracelet loop. 

Then use your pliers to securely close the loop on the bangle, making sure the end of the bangle wire is snug against itself so that your bead does not slip off. Repeat this process on the other side to form your bangle!

Your bracelet is now finished! 

Make a few and wear them together, make them for gifts or to match your favorite outfits! Imagine all the different bead combinations you could make! 

I hope you enjoyed this free tutorial!



I hope you have a great week! 
Love, 
Laura


My broken china jewelry is always available for purchase at https://www.etsy.com/shop/dishfunctionldesigns


article and images ©Laura Beth Love 2016

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Frog in my backyard pond jumping out of the water like a bullet trying to eat a leaf that was stuck on a cobweb - in slow motion (video)


It all started out so innocently.

There was a small pond. 

With a few fish.

And a pretty water lilly. 

And a crazy frog! 

Hi friends! I have something funny to share with you today. It's a short slow motion video! I filmed it last week in my backyard, and yes, I recorded the video on my iPhone. hehe.  

I shared this video clip on my Instagram last week, and then I realized I had to share it with you on the blog too, so I uploaded it to my YouTube channel and here it is. 

I love taking nature photos and shooting nature videos (especially slow motion videos) and if you follow my Instagram you probably already know this because you probably have already seen my "Woodpecker Listening to My Daughter Play Bass" videomy "Friendly Moth" videoand my most recent "Floating Butterfly" video. 

Hehe, I know - they're all kind of silly... But this frog is really something to see. 

The backstory: 
I was sitting outside in my "outdoor office" next to my fish pond, and I heard a splash. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Mr. Frog jump a foot into the air! Then I noticed what he was jumping at... there was a small brown leaf stuck in a cobweb that was strung across my fishpond. The leaf was perfectly suspended about 18 inches above the surface of the water, and it spun and bobbed in the breeze. Mr. Frog took notice. He jumped again. Then again. Then I grabbed my phone...keep your eye on the frog!

 Enjoy! 



I love how he uses his hands to try to scoop the leaf into his mouth! What do you think?


I hope you have a great week! 
Love, 
Laura


My broken china jewelry is always available for purchase at https://www.etsy.com/shop/dishfunctionldesigns


article and images ©Laura Beth Love 2016


Saturday, August 6, 2016

Good Morning Summer: Simple Ways To Brighten Up Your Outdoor Table

Good morning friends! It's a muggy morning here, and as I sit in my outdoor office (aka my backyard patio where I do much of my writing and some of my jewelry making) I'm hoping that the rain holds out so that I can enjoy as much of the outdoors as I can before rain forces me indoors. Where has summer gone? I feel like it is slipping away between my fingers. Wait! I haven't had enough! 

In any case, do you have a space to sit outside to enjoy nature? I don't have anything fancy, just a few pieces of standard patio furniture and a round metal table where I sit to work. But I like to decorate it a little bit to make it pretty and inviting. All it takes is a few inexpensive items to pretty up your sitting space and make it uniquely you. 

My favorite things to use are:

Unique or vintage linens - I'm talking about a simple, pretty tea towel or even a single, favorite fancy cloth napkin. The one shown above and below is a vintage tea towel. Put that down on your table first and then think about adding a few small things that coordinate. Heck, they even don't have to coordinate if you don't want them to - just choose a few things that you love and that are uniquely you. I just design my table so that it makes me happy and comfortable. 

A potted plant or flowers from your garden - I love a simple geranium in a clay pot. Yes, those are old broken china shards that you see in my flowerpot! They fell off a mosaic that I made (oops) and so I toss them into the flowerpot to add some interest and color. Once the hydrangea in my garden bloom (and they hardly bloomed this year, unfortunately) I like to cut some of them and keep them in a vase of water on my outdoor table. They will usually last for a few weeks where I live in Eastern Pennsylvania - and my table is beneath an awning so that helps protect them from the heat and sun. 
                          
(continued below...)




A few candles - I'm not as much of a candle person as I used to be, but having a pond a few feet away means citronella candles are a must to keep mosquitoes and other insects away. Plus, they look so pretty burning when the sun starts to go down and evening comes. Be sure to keep them away from your flowers or anything else that might catch on fire.

Other items of interest - Interesting rocks, stones, or a small statue or figurine can add interest and personality to your table. Just make sure you keep the size of things under control so that you don't use up all of your table space! How I do it: I simply keep everything inside the space of whatever linen I use. 


Working outside on my laptop - I couldn't have timed this photo better if I had tried! 



Remember, you don't have to be an interior decorator to create an attractive space that makes you happy and comfortable, all you have to do is go with your gut and choose the things that YOU love and that have meaning to you!

I'm the kind of person who would choose a flea market find or vintage hand-me-down a million to one over any type of mass-produced department store home decor. When it comes to decorating my personal space, I throw all "rules" out the window, go with my gut, and do what makes me happy and looks best to me. Please, decorate your space with things that have meaning to you!  Everything else is just fluff! ; )




I hope you have a great week! 
Love, 
Laura


My broken china jewelry is always available for purchase at https://www.etsy.com/shop/dishfunctionldesigns


article and images ©Laura Beth Love 2016

Friday, August 5, 2016

My Favorite Steak & Veggie Shish Kebabs


One of my favorite things about summer is grilled food! I know lots of folks use their outdoor grills year-round, and I try to stretch my grilling season as far into autumn as I can, but summer is prime grilling time at my house. I grill chicken at least once if not twice a week. It's so convenient to grill up enough for a few days and have it ready and waiting in the fridge to have with salad or rice or to mix into a quick chicken salad. Other days I'll grill up some pork chops like these Adobo Rub Pork Chops that I featured a few years ago. But steak and veggie kebabs are probably my favorite grilled food. Each time I make this recipe it gets rave reviews! And it's so simple. The only real work involved is chopping the veggies, and if you do some of the work the night before when you put the meat in the marinade, preparation the next day is a snap.

For the best taste, marinate the meat overnight. If you can get beef sirloin cubes from a butcher, use those. Standard beef steak cubes from a grocery store are fine too. I've used the ones marked stew cubes, and those are fine too, but they tend to have extra fat on them that I always cut off just because I like my steak lean. When I make this recipe I make a lot. If I'm going to go through the trouble of all that choppin', I make about 2 pounds of steak cubes. With all the veggies added it makes a lot of kebabs, as you can see in the photos below. Make sure you have lots of metal skewers! If you are going to use the bamboo ones, you have to soak them in water before you use them so they don't burn on the grill. I just use the metal ones because the bamboo are a pain. Literally! Sometimes they splinter when you are skewering your meat and veggies on them and omg it hurts when you get stabbed with one and if you've ever done this you will know exactly what I am talking about so no, you don't want to use those unless you are desperate for kebabs and have no metal skewers. Remember, Laura warned you about those bamboo skewers! 

Okay, the first thing I do is mix up the marinade in a bowl. I never measure it, I just kind of eyeball it, but for the sake of putting it in writing I mix up approximately these amounts:

Marinade for steak kebabs
For each pound of meat, whisk together in a bowl:
About 1/4 cup Soy Sauce
6 Tablespoons of Olive oil (you can use Canola oil if you prefer) 
About 2 teaspoons of ground Paprika 
2-3 cloves of fresh crushed garlic
1/4 teaspoon Black pepper
A couple shakes of Worcestershire sauce

On a cutting board I separate the steak cubes and trim away any fat, and cut any that are too large into smaller sized cubes. Then I put the steak cubes into a gallon-sized ziplock bag, add the marinade to the bag, seal the bag and then squish it around a bit so that all of the steak cubes are coated with marinade, and then refrigerate overnight.



Next, wash and clean the vegetables. I like to use a variety of colored peppers. I usually get one of each: sweet red, orange, yellow, and green peppers. Two to three Vidalia onions, a medium sized bag of mushrooms (or two of the 8oz packs), and a package of cherry tomatoes. If you can pick them fresh from your garden, do so!


Clockwise from top left: this is the meat that marinated overnight and is ready to skewer, Vidalia onion cut into quarters, peppers cut into skewer-sized pieces, and mushrooms washed, halved, and if very large, quartered. Yes, depending on how large the mushrooms are I will sometimes cut them into halves or quarters so that everything on the skewers is pretty much uniform in size. I also usually trim the bottoms off of the mushroom stems (about 1/4") just because they can be a bit woody or dirty. I skewer the cherry tomatoes on whole. 

One note about the onions: Once I slice the onions into quarters, I separate the layers, put them into a microwave safe bowl, and then microwave them on high for 1-2 minutes and then let them cool before I skewer them. I find that they cook much better on the grill if I microwave them a little bit first! It gets rid of that raw-onion crispness and instead they get juicer, soft and sweet. 



Time to skewer! As you can see in the photo above, I have my cut up veggies in bowls, and it's simple production-line work! Use an old broiling pan or any large pan with a bit of a lip to stack your skewered kebabs on. There is no right or wrong way to skewer. I find for some unknown reason that I always start with a piece of pepper. No idea why, it's just my thing. Remember to use all of the vegetables. Don't cross-contaminate. That means once the veggies get the raw meat marinade on them you have to grill them, so use all of the veggies! 


Aren't they pretty? These are ready to go on the grill. Heat up your grill for a few minutes and get ready to cook! I grill my kebabs on low, watching them carefully every few minutes as they cook, and turning them once or twice. I like my meat medium-well done and my veggies soft and well-grilled but if you like them crisper then grill them for a shorter period of time.  


These are just about ready to come off of the grill. Be sure to use grill tongs and an oven mitt so that you don't burn yourself, and place them on a clean pan. 


That's all there is to it! Yum! Enjoy! 


I hope you have a great week! 
Love, 
Laura




My broken china jewelry is always available for purchase at https://www.etsy.com/shop/dishfunctionldesigns


article and images ©Laura Beth Love 2016