Recent finds

| Beads, Vintage finds

IMG_6793.JPGHello friends, as promised from the last post, I wanted to share with you my finds from the Bead Bonanza.  There were a ton of beads but I wanted to focus just on the few stands selling old or vintage beads.  The first beads I found were a pair of silver enameled beads dating approximately back to the late 60s.  I loved their swirly pattern and the way they catch the light and how the pattern on each wasn’t identical. I can perfectly imagine turning these beads into earrings.

The next find came unexpectedly from a big bead store selling a huge selection of new beads. I was extremely tempted by all the beautiful Czech glass beads as well as Swarovski but alas, I had to pass on those beauties. Sometimes I have a hard time turning away from all the new glass beads because they are beautiful and perhaps I will incorporate them one day in my work, but for now, I’ve decided to work exclusively with old or vintage beads.  I was about to leave when I caught sight of a small tray filled with what looked like various charms and findings.  It was here that I struck gold because this was the vintage tray selection! I found a beautiful pendant, two pearl beaded beads and this steel cut buckle in this tray. The pendant and beads date back to the 50s and the buckle could be older and was made in France. I can’t wait to get to work on these!

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Just before leaving the booth, I spotted some of the chains they had for sale. One chain in particular caught my eye–a chain made of red evil eye charms.  Now, there’s nothing vintage about this chain and it isn’t even the traditional blue color of the talisman but I think its really pretty.  I bought some to experiment with though I can already tell that whatever I make with this chain will not be for sale.

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And finally we come to my most favorite purchase of the afternoon. One of the stands was selling a lifetime’s worth of beads and jewelry and one of the pieces for sale was this necklace with a fish tail pendant.  The seller didn’t have much much information about the necklace, other than the fact that it comes from Nagaland and we spent a good ten minutes trying to google some information about it.  Something about this necklace fascinates me no end.  I think it might be the unexpected combination of glass beads in such bright colors with a fish tail!  As soon as I got home, I dug out all my books on Southeast Asian jewelry but so far, I haven’t found any anything resembling my necklace. I’m intrigued enough by this necklace that I ordered a few books on the Naga culture from the library. I can’t wait to find out more about it. In the meantime, I have to find an outfit that goes with it!

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Bead Bonanza

| Bead adventures

 

IMG_6767-0.JPG Hello friends, I hope you all had a wonderful and restful weekend! The highlight of my weekend was the Bead Bonanza. This is a bi-annual event that gathers 50 or so bead dealers and you can absolutely geek out on anything and everything bead related.    There are literally piles and piles of all kinds and colors of beads.  If you are into beads and beadwork, this is definitely one event to attend.

Despite the profusion of beads, there aren’t a lot of stands carrying the older beads that I am perpetually looking for.  This time around, I was happily surprised because there were a few stands with some vintage and even older beads.  What was supposed to be a short visit (I told the family I would be there a maximum of one hour) turned into practically a whole day visit.

One stand caught my eye because of the many strands of coral and turquoise he was carrying. But he also had boxes full of vintage Afghanistan jewelry, some of which they had taken apart to sell as individual elements. These elements of traditional Afghan jewelry made mostly of silver and glass and a few with stones and corals, have a long and proud history and the antique versions of these jewelry sell easily for thousands of dollars.    It got me thinking about how I could possibly incorporate them in my own work.

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The next stand I visited is actually one of my favorite stands  and is one that carries a lot of old jewelry and old beads.  The beads and jewelry that I saw is now merely a fraction of what used to be a huge collection.  It belonged to an avid collector of beads and jewelry and her collection spans a period of easily 40 years.   She collected everything–from tribal jewelry from all over to antique stones to contemporary chevron beads from some of the best contemporary bead makers. She even collected some of the earliest editions of bead related journals!   When it was complete it must have been breathtaking. As it is now, it is still pretty impressive and I felt fortunate enough to see what is left of it.

Here are a few examples of her bead strands: mostly Venetians from the 19th century mixed with a few Bohemian made beads..

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It boggles my mind to imagine how much there must have been. Of course, I couldn’t resist the beads. The question was in fact more of how to restrain myself from blowing my entire budget on this one stand!

So friends, stay tuned, tomorrow I will share with you my finds from the Bead Bonanza!

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Its all about the bass

| Friday links

Have you heard this one? Its one of those catchy, irresistible tunes that have you humming along (almost) against yourself.  Its also currently the No.1 song and has even gone platinum! Of course, along with success, comes criticism that this song isn’t all that its message purports to be.  Have a listen and let me know what you think..

Have a great weekend everyone!

 

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Inspired reading

| Reading pleasures

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Hello friends, hope you all had a wonderful weekend! I’m starting the week with a book on American jewelry history. It certainly promises to be an interesting read!

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Throwback Thursday: Pretty bubbles

| Throwback Thursday

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This piece has to be one of the easiest ones I’ve ever made. As soon as I saw these big beads, I knew exactly what to do with them! I found the beads gathering dust in Paris, in an old tiny antique bric a brac store that looked like time forgot. It’s hard to see from the photos but these beads were a beautiful clear glass with a pinkish lavender heart. Looking into it was almost like looking into a glass bubble. When I found them, they were covered by a thick layer of dust but even then they had a beautiful shine that caught my eye. The owner of the store told me he had obtained them in Bohemia in the 40s and he’s had it since then. He looked quite loathed to part with them when he saw that I was interested in them. I guess one of the hazards of the antique trade is becoming attached to the wares. At any rate, he finally parted with them after extracting a promise that I would make something beautiful with them.
I think I kept my promise.

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Here’s to the weekend

| Friday links

IMG_6591.JPGDespite the chilly mornings, it has been pretty sunny most of this week. Dare I hope that this will continue?  I’m certainly keeping my fingers crossed that we will be enjoying great weather this weekend.  Friends, I hope you have some fun and exciting things planned ahead.

Before closing the week, I wanted to share a few fun links from around the web. See you back on Monday!

So, Scotland has been in the news lately. They went to the polls to determine whether they should be independent from the United Kingdom.  It must be such a huge and momentous occasion for them. I can’t even begin to imagine how I would feel if I were in their shoes.  Whatever the outcome, Scotland will remain a beautiful country. Just take a look at this  slideshow.

Still on Scotland, here are five books that celebrate this country.  Of course there are other books on Scotland, feel free to add to this list!

And while we are on books, if you are looking for something to read, you can’t go wrong with these recent nominees from the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2014  or the nominees from the National Book Award.

I know they always say that books are better than their movie versions, but I can’t help but look forward to a few movie adaptations that will soon make their big screen debut.  There’s Gone Girl and then there’s Mockingjay Part I (I’m still iffy on the whole splitting the third into two parts, but that’s just me).  I’m very much looking forward to these movies!

And that’s it folks! Enjoy your weekend!

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A glimpse of Mademoiselle’s inner sanctum

| Fashion

If there was one figure in fashion that fascinates me no end, it is  Coco Chanel.  From the different biographies I’ve read about her, she seems to have been a formidable woman and her influence continues to be felt today.  It was thus with great interest that I read about a new exhibit about her. Sam Taylor-Johnson was asked to do a series of photographs on Chanel’s private apartments on 31 rue Cambon in Paris.  This is Taylor-Johnson’s first exhibit in five years and is designed to be a psychological portrait of Mademoiselle Chanel. The photographs feature Chanel’s personal items, many of which had an almost talismanic meaning for her.

I wish I could fly to London to see this exhibit.  And while, that might be a bit challenging at the moment, I’m going to content myself with this lovely video which gives us a tantalizing glimpse of the exhibit.

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A visit to an antique flea market

| All things Antique, Vintage finds

IMG_6565.JPGHello dear friends,  I hope you had a wonderful and restful weekend!  It was a pretty quiet one chez nous though I did manage to go to a flea market.  Its been awhile since I did a flea market post and today, I thought I’d share with you some of the more interesting items that I saw.

The first item that caught my eye was this vintage Barbie board game from the 60s. I have never seen a Barbie board game before and this one was in wonderful condition.  There are tokens for 4 players and the winner gets to be …drumroll please…Queen of the Prom!! It looked like a fun enough game and I hesitated long and hard about whether I should get it. Finally, I put it down because I kept thinking about the kind of message this kind of game would send to a little girl.  Would it be a good or bad message?  At the end of the day, its just a game and probably good for a laugh but I’ll leave this question to be answered by another…

I noticed that a number of booths were carrying commemorative pins such as this one and I loved how they’re packed individually.  This booth had literally boxes and boxes of pins and it made me wonder how long they’d been collecting them?

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Another seller I saw collects vintage linens, some of which date back to the early years of the 20th century.  She had the brilliant idea of turning some of them into pretty little pouches.  Made to keep your delicate little unmentionables, no two pouches were alike and they hark back to a more genteel time.

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Funnily enough, I didn’t find anything beads or findings that  I could really use for work. I did find these books though that are perfect for work.  I am especially excited to dive into the book on American jewelry. Most of my jewelry library is concentrated on European jewelry so I’m certain that this new one will be an important one to fill gaps in my jewelry education. And yes, I bought a book on hankies, I couldn’t resist because I love hankies and who knew there would be a book on that! As for the lace book, how could I pass it up given that my last puchase was…IMG_6577.JPG.. this beautiful handmade 1940s lace jacket.   I had to have it even though it is probably the most impractical, most delicate thing I could add to my garde-robe.  

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 No matter, its beauty justifies itself.   Do you often get the impulse to buy something just because it is beautiful? Tell me I’m not alone.

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Finally, it’s Friday

| Friday links

IMG_6551.JPGThe sun finally made an appearance today but its chilly out! And wouldn’t you know it, I see the first hint of fall colors.  I hope you have great weekend ahead of you! To close the week, I wanted to share a few fun links…

One of the best things about fall is the magnificent change in colors. Here are the top places to see the fall colors.

With the change in colors come the drop in temperatures.  I have to admit, a nice coat can make all the difference.  Check out the best new coats for the season here.

And finally, H&M’s new collaborator for fall 2014 is none other than Alexander Wang.  Here’s a first look at his new collaborative line.

Have a good weekend everyone!!

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Pink on a rainy day

| New pieces

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Suddenly its pouring out. After days of sunny 80 degree weather, we are hit by a powerful storm.  As an antidote to all this gray rain, I decided to cheer myself up by making something outrageously pink and pretty.  I know, I said I was going to work with some vintage French charms (here they are from Monday’s post), but I haven’t had the chance to work on them because I got distracted with some vintage Japanese glass beads.  I work almost exclusively with European glass beads.  But the Japanese too had, and continue to have a thriving bead industry.  Over the summer, I lucked out and found some really pretty Japanese glass dating back to the 50s/60s.  The necklace pictured above is my first attempt to create a piece with them.  I love this white and pink color combination and the fact that there is a glass cane right smack in the middle of the bead.  I love this elbow shape as well and the fact that I have more than one!   Funnily enough, when I started with this necklace, I only put in the elbow shaped beads. After wearing it around the house, I thought it was missing something. A search in my bead box turned up the only other Japanese bead I had before. This one is the classic round floral bead and I thought it was the perfect piece to add to the necklace!  It is designed to be a ras-de-cou (or dog collar) style necklace so it looks great peeking out from under a button down shirt.

Of course, I couldn’t resist trying to make an earring to match. But as I couldn’t very well put elbow shaped beads in an earring (or maybe I could, something to think about….), I thought a simple pair of hoops would go well with them.  These ones are pale pink glass hoops from Bohemia in the 50s.

IMG_6540.JPGEh voila…pretty in pink ensemble!

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Monday’s desk

| Vintage finds

IMG_6532.JPGHello friends, how is the start of your week?

Last week, I finished a number of pieces using some trade beads (see post here).  This week, I am inspired by these pretty French vintage charms from the 50s. I bought these in a Parisian brocante, and I’ve been hoarding them like a miser does with his gold.  I would bring them out, admire them, then back into the bead box they go!  There’s just something so charming and cheerful with them. But now, more than three years (I did say I was hoarding them!) after buying them, I’m finally ready to make something with them.  Can’t wait to show you how they turn out!

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Throwback Thursday: Fun hoop earrings

| Throwback Thursday

 

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Hello friends, today I thought I’d do a Throwback Thursday post featuring one of the first pieces I ever sold after our big move. At that time,  I didn’t know anybody and was just trying to figure out how to join art fairs.  I was quite apprehensive about starting a new business so far from where I’d started.    This piece was one of the first I sold after I made my first friend who was completely enthused about the fact that I make jewelry! She was looking for a fun piece to give as a birthday present and the minute she saw these earrings, she knew it was perfect for the person she had in mind!

These earrings are quite fun and add immediate pizzazz to any outfit.  But what makes them truly special are these faceted glass hoops. They look and feel quite light but they are glass and it truly takes a master craftsman to make something so delicate out of glass.  They’re not just hoops, there are facets in the way the hoop is cut and that’s quite uncommon.  I’ve seen since other glass hoops but these had not faceting in them.  These red hoops were made in Paris in the late 30s and at the last minute,  I decided to add some little glass pearls from the 50s to accentuate the hoops.

This was quite a memorable sale for me as it made me feel that I could start over and that I would find people who would love jewelry that I make!

 

 

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Trying my hand at something different

| News

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Hello friends, during the long weekend I took out some trade beads and tried something new with them.  I remembered one necklace I made using the blue “fried egg” trade beads and some braided cord and it occurred to me that that piece turned out pretty well.  (See the necklace here).  So I took out some of my bigger trade beads (these beads date back to the late 19th century) and paired them up with some soft cords.  The first one (pictured above) features an elbow shaped trade bead with a lovely red and green checkerboard pattern.  To mix it up a little, I decided to add some green and mustard yellow trade beads to the piece.IMG_6491.JPGThe second piece likewise features an elbow bead with a checkerboard pattern but this one is a bright, almost neon orange color which I rarely, if ever see in beads, and some green and white canes.  I lucked out and found two other beads in the same pattern and so it seemed fitting to put all three together.  I quite like the combination of glass beads on a soft cord. Its pretty without being too frou-frou.

Once I had finished these two pieces, I turned my hand to making something pretty with these small millefiori beads that have been rattling awhile in my bead box for awhile now. These millefioris date back to the early 20th century and have the typical Venetian canes.  As they’re on the small side I decided to make a double dangling pair of earrings as well as a double strand bracelet.  They may be small but they have a certain presence!

All these items will soon be loaded up in the shop! IMG_6489.JPG

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A long weekend

| Friday links, Jewelry

IMG_6408.JPGHello friends, its a long weekend in our part of the world and I know that for many, its the last hurrah before buckling down to school work.  I hope wherever you are, you’ve got wonderful plans ahead of you.

Before leaving, I wanted to share a few fun links…

Here’s a list of a couple of good Labor day reads.  I’m very excited about Amy Bloom’s new book, she’s one of my favorite authors!!

Speaking of books, I love trilogies, well-written ones at least.  Nothing like a good trilogy to lose oneself in.  Here’s a list of some great trilogies.

And just because this post is shaping up to be all about books, here’s a list of wonderful books coming out in the fall. Marilynne Robinson, William Gibson and Margaret Atwood are just some of the authors on this list, so its really something to look forward to!

Have a great weekend everyone!

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On my work desk

| Beads, New pieces

IMG_6443.JPGHello friends, today I though I’d share with you the beginnings of a new piece.  I know its not quite the end of summer but somehow I feel the start of fall. Maybe its all the back to school announcements or the leaves that have started to drift down to our garden, whatever it is, I found myself gravitating towards these dark blue vintage beads. They would make for a lovely piece to wear during the progressively colder months.  Can’t wait to show you how it turns out!

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Last song syndrome

| Friday links

Hello friends, its finally the weekend! Hope you have fun and exciting things planned ahead! I’ve been hearing this song everywhere, I’m at the point where even when I don’t hear it, its still playing in my head!

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Pineapple beads (or more beads from the bead box)

| Beads

IMG_6189.JPGI know that in Monday’s post, I said that wedding cake beads are one of my favorite beads but its really hard to actually choose just one favorite. I think it’ll be like asking which of your kids you prefer.  So today, I’m featuring another bead that I’m pretty obsessed with. The pineapple bead, specifically the pink pineapple.

Isn’t that the funniest name for a bead? I think the name must have come about because of the cross-hatch of lines running throughout the bead as well as the many eyes that decorate it.   It does do a good job of describing this bead. Now, my hands down preferred pineapple is of course the pink version. An antique dealer once told me that the early Venetian bead makers, skilled as they were in making beads, couldn’t make bright pink colored beads.  This was just something they couldn’t do because at that time, synthetic dyes were unavailable and they had to make do with what was found in nature or that they could produce from natural substances.  As such, all their pink colored beads were of the lighter hue. Any bright neon colored fuschia colored beads were of much much later production when synthetic chemicals were introduced.

Thus, the pink pineapples are thus one of the older beads in the Venetian catalog of beads.  These ones that I have probably date back to the mid to late 1800s.  They are increasingly more difficult to find and I lucked out because a collector consented to sell me some beads from her collection.  I think I’m going to just enjoy them for a bit before trying to do anything with them.

Hope you’ve enjoyed seeing these particular favorites of mine!

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Wedding cake beads

| Beads

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Hello friends, I hope your week is off to a rousing start! I like to start the week by wearing something red. Someone once told me that it gives the wearer a boost of energy and that has stuck with me ever since.  I’ve chosen to interpret this as including red colored beads. Fortunately for me, wedding cake beads, one of my favorite kind of bead, comes in different shades of red! And so I thought I’d share with you what I have in my bead box.

The first set (pictured above) have the distinctive floral trailings of a Venetian wedding cake bead.  They date back to the very early years of the 1900s.  And I’m fortunate to have found in very good condition though I wasn’t able to buy the entire strand.  The seller had already sold half the strand by the time I came along. Most of the trailings are still intact and there is hardly any decoration loss. There is a pair of earrings in the shop right now with these beads.

The second set of red wedding cake beads is a strand I acquired during my last trip in Paris.  These too have the distinctive floral design but in addition they have the white squiggly lines running across the beads. Sometimes, collectors refer to this kind of bead as latticino beads.  Latticino is an old Italian technique of decorating the glass with colored glass canes.  These beads date back to the 20s/30s.   I was fortunate enough to have found a long strand of these beads but they do need to be re-strung.  I think I’m keeping these beads.

IMG_6191.JPGHere are the two strands together. And if you have sharp eyes, you’ll see two beads that don’t belong to either strand..

IMG_6194.JPGDid you spot them? These are the red wedding cake beads from the 1940s which  I bought from a reputable dealer of antique beads from Venice.  They are slightly smaller and are a bit more uniform in size than the older two examples I have.  I decided to make a sautoir style necklace with them and the two you see with the rest are all that’s left from the lot.  This necklace is available in the shop!

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Bead photo of the day

| Beads

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Today I wanted to share one of the recent additions to my bead box. It’s a rare Venetian white fancy floral bead that dates back to the late 1800s. It has lost some of it’s trailings but it’s overall condition is still good considering it’s age. I’m very happy to add this to my collection as finding them is starting to be difficult not to mention expensive.
Now my dilemma is what to make with it. Any ideas?

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Monday’s new piece

| New pieces, Shop news

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Hello friends, in all the excitement and work over the site’s new look, I haven’t had the chance to finish this piece which I started awhile back. Today’s gray and rainy weather proved conducive to finishing this necklace.  I’ve had these twisted peach colored 40s beads from Bohemia awhile but haven’t had the chance to use them.  In fact, it was part of a packet of beads that I bought at one of my first forays in the Parisian brocantes.  I loved their shape and the lady selling them told me, she had gotten them from someone who used to make jewelry too.  Isn’t it great that these beads are finally in a finished piece?

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    I started this piece with the idea of making a sort of double bead with them and adding vintage crystal rondelles. Then I realized, the peachy color of these beads would make a pretty match to one of my antique French pendants. Somehow the peach colors set off the rosy patina of this 19th century necklace.  To make it different from the other necklaces featuring the antique pendants, I decided to do a double strand necklace.  Eh voila…you see the finished piece! IMG_5956-2.JPGNow available in the shop!

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A Florentine house

| Throwback Thursday

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Perhaps it’s a sign of the times we live in but everywhere we’ve been in recent times, at least one or two historic monuments have been covered in scaffolding or tarp.  I know, I know. It’s necessary especially when it involves restoration work on historic monuments.  But it can be quite frustrating.  Florence, during our last visit, wasn’t an exception.  The Baptistry of St. John is currently undergoing some work and is all covered up. But unlike the usually tarp and wood, the Baptistry is covered in the  signature print and color of the House of Pucci.  They are sponsoring the work behind the Baptistry.  And because it is Pucci, it is extremely striking!

The House of Pucci,now synonymous with fashion and vibrant colors and prints, is actually a very old and noble Florentine house.  Their family Palazzo which also serves as the company’s headquarters in Via de Pucci in Florence, has the rare distinction of being occupied by the same family since its construction in the 16th century.

Emilio Pucci, put the house on the fashion map when he started designing sky wear in the late 40s.  His colorful and exuberant patterns caught the eye of many of the fashion cognoscenti.  Emilio’s designs and colors are still in use by the current designer of the label.  While in Florence, I had the chance to meet one of their in-house artists who works on the scarves. It was a fascinating conversation.

She explained that  every design begins with a mood board such as the one you see in the background of the picture below.  All the colors they use in current designs are still those originally conceived by Emilio in the 40s. And while they now use machines to produce their scarves, extreme care is taken to ensure that their colors are exactly the same as the original hues.

After coming up with a mood board, each design is painstakingly drawn and hand-colored before it is turned over to the silk printers.  Here she is at work on the limited edition scarves that have the same design as that covering the Baptistry of the St. John.

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Here is a view of the scarves up close…IMG_5534.JPGThese commemorative scarves are beautiful, like mini-works of art themselves with their jewel hues.  To make them even more special, they are only available in the Pucci store in Florence.

IMG_5535.JPGI love learning about other people’s creative process and so it was quite a treat to catch a glimpse of one part of the working process of one of fashion’s most iconic labels.  Read more on our Florentine adventure in this post.

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Finally, an unveiling

| News, Shop news

20140806-115645-43005231.jpgHello friends, after a long silence, I’m finally back! Its taken awhile but here we are, ready to unveil the all new look of De Petites Merveilles.  I’m so happy to be able to share with you all, the fruits of weeks of work on the new logo and look of the site.   This is a step that I’ve long wanted to take but it’s only now that things finally came into place.  The process of working on the site has forced me to sit down and really articulate my vision of De Petites Merveiles. While, I’ve always had a fairly firm idea of what we are about,  the challenge  was how to convey the idea in a cohesive image or look, if you will. It is my hope that the new look conveys in the best possible way what we are all about.

One other thing I’m really proud to present is the shop section. Yes, there is now a shop section, complete with shopping cart and all, where people can purchase all the lovely pieces that were previously available only through art fairs and craft shows.  Woohoo!! I invite you to check it out. Keep in mind that I have a lot more that I will be adding continuously in the days to come.

To be sure, the process is an on-going one. There are a number of things that need to still be tweaked or improved and I want to ask your patience as I continue to work on things.  However, stay and look around. Enjoy the all new De Petites Merveilles!!!

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Monday’s desk

| Beads, Vintage finds

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Hello friends, how is the start of your week? I too, am back at my work desk, sorting out beads and things to make lovely new pieces. Today, I thought I’d show you what I have lined up .  First up are these vintage charms that I think would make lovely focal pieces. The big cross is composed of lovely green glass and dates back to the 40s while the guilloche pendant is actually a small perfume dispenser from the late 30s. Aren’t they pretty?   The enamel pair is a bit of a mystery. I haven’t quite figured out where it was made though it has a vaguely Asian air to it.  I was quite attracted to it because of its lovely vibrant color. I’m thinking of making some simple earrings with them.

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My week wouldn’t be complete of course without some beads! This group of four big beads are all from Murano, Italy and features their distinctive gold foil work.  They date back to the 60s.   Now I love gold foil beads but there’s something quite special about the  black and white striped bead.  This one is definitely a pendant don’t you think? 20140728-105306-39186922.jpgAnd finally, some pretty pink beads that are going to be all dressed up with some gold bead caps. Perhaps there will be earrings from this group or a pendant. The possibilities are endless…

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Happy Friday

| Friday links

Lakeview

Well friends, the work week is drawing to a close  and as I look at my calendar, I can’t believe how quickly this summer is flying by! Its almost August! Have you been on holiday? Or are you looking forward to going on one?  In honor of all things vacation, here’s a short round up of fun vacation related links…

Beachfront libraries –easily the most awesome idea EVER.  Where do I sign up?!

While we are on the subject of vacation and books, here’s a roundup of beautiful bookstores worth making a special trip for.

Are you a fiend for flea markets like I am? This list is for you!

And finally, because whether you’re going to the beach or backpacking, you always need a good book to keep you company. Here are nine new novels worth taking with you..

Have a good weekend everyone!

 

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Throwback Thursday: La Dolce Vita

| Scenes from our travels, Throwback Thursday, Travels

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Hello friends, for this Throwback Thursday post, I thought I’d share a few photos from our last trip to Italy. As a vacation destination, its hard to beat Italy. There is so much culture and history for culture buffs, gorgeous views, be it of the city or the countryside, delicious food and wine and of course, who can resist gelatos? It truly is one of my favorite places to visit.

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This time around we thought we’d visit Florence. This city which is synonymous with Medici dominance has a lot going for it.  It is a fairly compact city with most major historic sites within walking distance. To fully appreciate its charms, one must come many times, the better to take in all it has to offer. 

There is of course no shortage of churches to visit, most notably the Duomo of Florence with its gorgeous facade made entirely of marble.  The view from its rooftop is impressive which is somewhat a consolation because its’ interior is (funnily enough) not as impressive as its exterior.

For beautiful frescoes and art, it is the Church of Santa Croce that you must see.  One can easily spend hours in this church, marveling at everything.  There are as well a number of prominent people buried in this church,  notably Michaelangelo.

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For much of Florentine history, the Piazza de Signoria has been the gathering place of its people.   Fra Savonarola gave his incendiary speeches here and it is likewise here that he met his fiery end.  Nowadays, it is crowded with camera toting tourists and the cafes that throng the Piazza are full.  While we were there, it was the site of a vintage car exhibit which drew as many people as the Uffizi galleries, not far from the Piazza.

20140724-100022-36022157.jpgA visit to Florence wouldn’t be complete without strolling through the Ponte Vecchio. At least to try to stroll as much as you can given the huge crowd that always seems to be on the bridge!  Crowd or not, the view of the Arno river from the bridge is beautiful.  To capture this view of the Ponte Vecchio, cross over to one of the other bridges.

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The Ponte Vecchio is lined from one end to another with jewelry shops, all proudly carrying on the Florentine tradition of goldsmithing and jewelry making.   The bridge however wasn’t always the site of such pretty objects.  In its earlier history, the Ponte Vecchio was the home of numerous Florentine butcher shops.  In 1593,  Duke Ferdinando I of the Medicis moved the goldsmiths here in an effort to boost the city’s beauty and in order to attract higher end customers.   Now, its impossible to imagine the bridge without all the jewelry shops, so entrenched are they here.20140723-084137-31297508.jpg

This is but one shop among the many that crowd the bridge…

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It wasn’t on Ponte Vecchio however that I found my own personal souvenir to take back with me. On one of the tiny side streets that radiate out of the Duomo, I found a tiny jewelry workshop.  Consigli di Anna  had a beautiful display of jewelry which of course, I could not resist. It turns out that the owner Anna has been making jewelry for 25 years in this tiny shop.  Her work mostly uses natural stones and gems and she still makes every piece herself. Her shop is a virtual cavern of treasures and I found myself looking at every single item.

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I was heartened to see her work desk with its jumble of stones and tools of the trade. Seems I’m not the only one who works in, how shall I say it–glorious disarray.20140723-084134-31294238.jpg

After what seemed like hours of looking and trying on every thing in the store, I settled for this pair of delicate pearls and Mediterranean coral. Isn’t it gorgeous?

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Of course all that walking around is enough to work up quite an appetite, and this being Italy, there is no shortage of restaurants and gelaterias, some of which are more of a tourist trap than authentic Italian fare.  However, we lucked out and found La Mescita, tiny place frequented by locals since 1927. While they serve only limited number of pasta dishes and a dish of the day, it was perfectly delicious and while partaking this meal, we had the impression of truly living la dolce vita.

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New additions to the jewelry box

| Beads, New pieces

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Happy Monday friends!! As I’ve been quite focused on necklaces lately, this past week I decided to work on some other pieces.

I love earrings and its high time I made a new pair.  I decided to stick  to my  palette of pink and gold and this pair features pink gold foil glass beads from the 50s and small pink pate de verre glass beads.  When worn, they dangle quite cheerfully and are perfect for jazzing up summery outfits!

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Then I turned my hand to making some new bracelets.  For the first bracelet (pictured above), I had this lovely pink red glass foil bead that’s been bouncing about in my bead box for some time now.  This bead dates back to the 50s and I wanted to make it into a focal bead but I couldn’t quite make it work as a necklace. Then I realized that it works perfectly as a focal bead for a bracelet.  I dug out the few remaining links I had of this delicate filigreed chain from the 40s and everything came together.

20140721-100546-36346432.jpgFor today’s last piece, I wanted a bit of a different look so I paired this vintage long blush colored bead with some gold and white rondelle beads and presto..a simple but interesting bracelet!

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A shorter length

| New pieces

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Hello friends, remember the piece from the last post? I wasn’t entirely sure about its length, so when it came to working on a second necklace, I decided to go for a shorter length.  It still features one of my antique pendants but this time, it features a few carved orange glass beads from the 50s.

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Now that I’ve made the two, I realize that they’re quite lovely paired up together. Don’t you just love them?

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Working with a rose patina

| New pieces

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Hello friends, hope your week is off to a rousing start! Last night as I was sorting out beads, I found myself gravitating towards a pink and violet palette. Try as I might, I was not in the mood for any other color.

But what I really wanted to work on were pieces that would include some of my recent finds from France.   The main challenge I’m facing with these finds is the color. A number of the jewelry from the 19th century made use of an alloy of brass and copper resulting in a pinkish gold hue.  The older it is, the more copper seeps into the mix making it even more rosy.  The pendants I brought back all have this rose patina.  And while I love this color, I have to think carefully about the kind of beads that  will go with them as well as the chain I can use.  Most of the newer chains available are of a brighter, more yellow shade and while I’m all for mixing colors, the result is not always harmonious.

For my  first attempt, I decided to pair the pendant with a double fleur de lys pattern with some vintage violet beads from the 50s. To make it more interesting, I decided to add a warm orange disk bead in between the rondelles.  I like this combination of violet and rose gold.  I do wonder about its current length.   As it is now, the pendant falls just within the decollete.  I’m wondering if it wouldn’t be better shorter and closer to the ras de cou style around the neck? Hmmm…what do you think?

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Throwback Thursday: a circlet of green

| Beads, Throwback Thursday

20140710-104525-38725460.jpgHello friends, for today’s Throwback Thursday, I wanted to share with you a necklace I made with one of my earliest bead finds.

A few years ago, before I even had the idea of selling jewelry, I accompanied a friend to a closing out sale. My friend had heard of someone who was closing her business and needed to liquidate her inventory and materials. The artist was quite creative and her creations ranged from bags to textile art and jewelry.  Her atelier was filled to the brim with feathers, uncut leather, tools, sequins and other odds and ends.  I was quite curious as to why she was closing and she told me that despite her love of her craft, it was hard to make a living out of it.  She said that most people didn’t appreciate the efforts that went into her creations and that after years of struggling, she was ready to give it up.  The sale of the things she used to create would help her start afresh.

I certainly wanted to help her but I didn’t really see anything I could use. I decided to go one last time around the atelier and then I spotted some jars sitting high up on one of shelves.  There were two jars filled with buttons and another half filled with beads.   From the various beads stashed in the box was a strand of these green beads.  My eye was caught by the vibrant color and pattern of these beads. She explained that they had been in her family for a long time and that they had come from Africa.  She’d always wanted to do something with them, but for one reason or another, never managed to.  I figured it wasn’t part of the sale so I put it back. But to my surprise, she said she was willing to sell it. She said, it was time for them to be with someone else. Someone else who could make something with them, rather than sitting in the dark, collecting dust.

I happily took them home, that thought ringing in my mind and as I learned more about beads, I learned that these were Venetian Millefiori trade beads.  They had been around a long long time.  They were part of the massive trade of beads that made their way from Venice to Africa in the 19th century.  These particular ones were probably made in the latter half of the 19th century.  These beads were in gorgeous condition; no chips or cracks to mar their surface.  I made a very straightforward necklace with them, the weight of its history carried in the simplest of forms.

 

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Trade bead jewelry

| Bead adventures, Reading pleasures

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Trade beads are one of my most favorite beads to work with. The variety of patterns, and different colors make them interesting and different. I really think that they make for wonderful additions to one’s jewelry box and they can easily jazz up any outfit. Because they are so colorful and inevitably full of pattern, I’ve tried to make these pieces relatively simple in style. These three pieces featured here are great examples of what I mean.

The first piece (pictured above) features bright yellow trade beads with red canes running in the middle of the bead. I’ve had these yellow beads for awhile but I didn’t really know how I would style it. Then when I went to Tucson for the gem fair, I found this red bead which I realized was the exact same pattern as the canes running through the yellow beads.  The beads on this necklace date back to the late 19th century.  I didn’t want this piece to be overwhelming so I decided to go for a sautoir style necklace. I think this style makes these beads more wearable. Just layer over a plain shirt and you’re good to go.

20140513-112507.jpgThe second piece features two black eye beads from the Venetian trade and a lovely Venetian fancy trade bead. While the Venetians were master bead makers, they were greatly inspired by ancient Islamic bead makers. One pattern they took and made their own was the eye motif which was greatly prized by Africans. The eye beads were believed to be powerful protection against the evil eye. The two black eye beads featured here are the Venetians version of an ancient Islamic bead and date back to the 19th century. The yellow fancy bead on the other hand is the Venetian version of the highly prized African Bodom bead.  The Venetian versions are increasingly difficult to find and I was lucky to have found an excellent specimen.  For these beads, I decide to make a shorter necklace that’s designed to sit on the collarbone. Perfect under button down shirts!

20140505-125210.jpgAnd last but not the least is this bracelet composed of blue and yellow trade beads.  While the colors are the same, the pattern is not exactly the same.  The small football shaped beads are harder to find than the round ones and the canes used in the beads are more apparent here. Eh voila… a couple of new pieces to start the week on the right note!

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Blue and gold

| Beads, New pieces

20140702-123020-45020342.jpgFor today’s post, I thought I’d share a new piece I just finished.  This piece started out with the decorated gold focal bead that I made awhile back.  I loved how decorative it looked but wasn’t convinced that making an all gold necklace would be the way to go.20140702-123021-45021299.jpgLuckily, I later on acquired a deep, almost royal blue, set of French glass beads.  These beads are from the late 50s and while pairing them off with different colored beads, I realized that gold would play wonderfully against the deepness of its blue.  And that is how this necklace was born!20140702-123022-45022234.jpg

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Some recent finds

| All things Antique, Beads

 

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Hello friends, lat week I talked about my recent visit to the Puces de Vanves.  Today, I want to share my finds from that visit.   There were so many tempting things for sale but I decided to focus on things that I could use for work.  It is after all the main reason why I was at the Puces.  I think I was quite fortunate this time.  I barely arrived when I found my first piece (pictured above).  The seller had bought out someone’s metal stamping business and this piece was one of the last from that lot.  While the design of this lady looks like it is from the early years of the 1900s, this piece was actually made in the 1960s.  It is not that old but I love the design. And it even has the original tag from the business.

Another piece that I acquired dates back to almost the same period.  This forget me not pendant made of little glass beads resembling turquoise and cut steel dates back to the early years of the 20th century.  The necklace it probably came with is gone but I am happy to have this gorgeous statement piece.

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A bit of walking brought me to my next find.  A pair of gorgeous French made pendants from a much earlier period.   The piece on the right dates back to the period of 1890 while the other pendant is dates back to the beginning of the 1900s.  Both were fashioned by hand and the enamel work is in very fine condition.  I’m very excited by these two and I can’t wait to work on them.

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The next set of pieces are quite interesting too.  These were made in the 1890s and they were designed to be either lockets or as ornaments for men’s watches.  As these  particular pieces weren’t lockets, they were most likely  used for men’s watches. In those days, men used pocket watches and at one end of the chain, there used to hang decorative little pendants such as these.  Most of these pendants were made out of a mixture of brass and copper hence their rosy color. This particular mix was first authorized for use in jewelry by King Louis XVI in 1785. Previously, it was forbidden by the king.    I think they would make for great pendants!

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And my next find also dates back to the same time frame.  This tiny enameled piece used to belong to a bracelet but all the other pieces are now lost.  I don’t quite know what to do with it yet, but I just couldn’t resist it.  The enamel work on the piece is still intact and I love the little flower design.  20140630-091534-33334937.jpg

Finally, just as I was about to head home, I found some gorgeous beads. Finding these beads just about completed my day.  These are early Venetians from the beginning of the 1900s.  Its been awhile since I found some gorgeous beads in an antique market so I just had to have them!

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I’m quite happy to be back at my desk working away with these gorgeous new pieces!

 

 

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French antiquing

| All things Antique

20140626-073813-27493699.jpg   One of the things I miss about France is the weekly brocantes and the Puces (big weekend antique markets) I used to frequent.  I may not always find something, but an afternoon or morning spent browsing amongst the different stalls was always interesting and fun.   Needless to say, going to the Puces is one of the things I look forward to the most when we make a trip back. This particular visit, I spent one morning browsing through the stalls of the Puces de Vanves.

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 It is a much smaller affair than the Puces de Clignancourt, and they keep  shorter hours, from 7 am to 1 pm only.  Some years ago, when I first started going there, most, if not all of the people browsing were locals.  Bargaining or even conversing with the sellers in my fledging French was an adventure to say the least! Well the times, they are a-changing.  Now, there are as many foreigners as locals browsing the stalls and even more surprising, the French (as can be!) vendors are speaking English! You can’t imagine how surprised I was by this!               20140626-073810-27490809.jpgDespite these changes and the increasing difficulties in sourcing good quality antiques (a refrain I heard from many vendors), the Puces is still replete with many wonderful objets d’art,  curios and trinkets.  There are a few furniture pieces but for those things, it is better to go to the Puces de Clignancourt anyway.  20140626-073812-27492583.jpg       There were a lot of beautiful paintings and prints on all manner of subjects. It was wonderful to see the wide variety available on sale.

My eye was caught too, by all the pretty and dainty dinnerware sets and silverware that hark back to the days of washing everything by hand.  It was only the thought of lugging all these back in a luggage that stopped me from buying some pretty dishes.20140626-073811-27491739.jpg

And if you are looking for pretty things, there was no shortage of those as well.  Just check out the pretty petit point bags and delicate lace jacket from the beginning of the 20th century pictured above.  They were all handmade and in beautiful condition.  And while some stalls specialized in one of a kind objects, some others stands had boxes of things.  This one in particular had crates of old candy boxes from the turn of the century.  Turns out the seller had bought out the entire left over stock of an old candy shop.  As I left, I overheard someone bargaining to buy the box.  I t made me wonder what he will do with them.  20140626-073814-27494538.jpg

As for my finds, I’m happy to report that I came away with a few special things.  But that is for another post!  Happy weekend everyone!

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Sneak peek

| New pieces

20140611-162611-59171251.jpgI’m excited about this new piece I’m working on! It involves a vintage shoe clip from the 40s with gorgeous Swarovski crystals.  I love the way the light reflects from the crystals.

Can’t wait to show you the finished piece!

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