Thursday, June 27, 2013

More Cosmic Bracelets

I wove a few more cosmic bracelets, in different color palettes. First up is this super-colorful combination of dark purples and pinks, and the big central cosmic crystal reminds me of a setting sun.

Next up is this more muted combination of amethyst and blue-greens. I just love this color of tila bead!

For reference, here's the original color palette:

Which one is your favorite?

Monday, June 24, 2013

New Bracelet

I wove a new bracelet, with lots of sparkly crystals!

This bracelet came about after some previous prototypes where I framed a larger bead with a ring of tila beads. In this design, I've framed a cosmic Swarovski crystal.

I like how the straight, defined lines of the tila beads serve as a counterpoint to the asymmetric lines of the cosmic crystals. I also worked hard to develop just the right position for the tila beads while keeping the whole component stiff; they sit at about a 45° angle to provide a shadowbox effect to each component.

It's different than my usual style, but I rather like it!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Arixtra Molecule

I finished my next beaded molecule: the anticoagulant, Arixtra.

Arixtra Molecule

As I mentioned last week, Arixtra is a synthetic anticoagulant drug that's related to natural compounds found in humans. It's also known by its generic name, "fondaparinux," though we always called it Arixtra in my doctoral research lab. It's a carbohydrate with a total of five rings, and it's related to the natural carbohydrates heparin and heparan sulfate, which are also used as anticoagulants (though those molecules are much bigger!)

From a structural point of view, an interesting aspect about Arixtra is that it has so many sulfates (the clusters of yellow and red atoms in the model above). Sulfates are more common in these kinds of carbohydrates compared to peptides such as my Endorphin Molecule necklace. From the beader's point of view, this changes the color balance of the piece, because so much more of the mass of the molecule is taken up by sulfates as opposed to nitrogen atoms. However, since my fellow-chemist friend that commissioned this piece specifically requested CPK colors, the big color decisions were out of my hands.

Chemical Flexibility

Like the Endorphin necklace, this piece is quite flexible, just like a real molecule.

Real molecules do, however, tend to prefer particular "poses" over others, which can change depending on their situation. We're not exactly sure which configuration Arixtra prefers in its molecular state, though it might look like a big glob of atoms like this:

Arixtra as Jewelry

Since this piece is an object d'art, it's not going to be incorporated into jewelry. However, it's about 7 inches long, which is just about the right length for a bracelet.

But since this piece is so asymmetrically dimensional, and full of branches of beads that might get caught on a stray thread from a sweater, I'd be much more comfortable wearing it as a necklace. I pinned it to one of my jewelry busts to see what it would look like as a necklace.

I may just have to make one for myself!

Friday, June 14, 2013

New Kit: Rizo Tila Garden Pendant

New kits are now available for the Tila Garden Pendant, now with little rizo flowers!

I also updated the pattern for this design with updated illustrations, new photographs, and a brand new bead checklist! My class students found these updates quite helpful for completing this challenging design.

I should also note that I have a limited number of Ice Queen Necklace kits left, and unfortunately Swarovski has decided to discontinue the air blue opal shade of the bicone drops used in this necklace. Since these crystals are getting difficult to source, once these kits are gone, they're gone.

These kits are available at, and contain all the materials necessary to make each design.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

WIP Wednesday: Starting Another Molecule

For my next beading project, I've been commissioned by a friend of mine to make another 3D beaded molecule. My friend studies a class of molecules called glycosaminoglycans, or GAGs (yes, GAGs. Don't laugh!) One of the most widely-available GAGs is this one:

It's a synthetic anticoagulant drug that's related to natural GAGs found in humans. I generally call it by its trade name, "Arixtra," though its generic name is "fondaparinux." It differs from both my endorphin molecule necklace and the Morning Coffee Molecules because it's a carbohydrate, while the endorphins are peptides, and caffeine, caffeic acid, and trigonelline are small molecules. Arixtra is related to the natural carbohydrates heparin and heparan sulfate, which are also used as anticoagulants.

It's widely-available because it's made in the laboratory from other pure molecules, whereas heparin and heparan sulfate have to be extracted from animal tissue, usually cows or pigs.

Here's a 3D representation of this molecule:

My friend wants it to be a stand-alone piece, which saves me the challenge of figuring out how to incorporate it into jewelry. I'm guessing that it will measure about 7-8 inches end-to-end.

She wants her molecule in CPK colors, which are the standard colors used for each atom in molecular models like the one above. But I'm taking a few liberties with those colors to make it look prettier.

Now comes the challenge of beading it! Stay tuned for the results!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Scenes from the Bead & Button Show

I'm back from the Bead & Button Show and slowly getting back into my normal routine. It was a whirlwind of work and play, but I did manage to remember to take some pictures!


It was a little chillier in Milwaukee this year compared to past years, and ranged from partially cloudy to raining! Here's the view from our hotel room on our first morning there:


I always love teaching beading workshops and this year's classes were no different! A couple of my students finished their Cosmic Nocturne Pendants in class!

Here I am providing some one-on-one time for the Tila Garden Pendant:

And here are some of my students' completed Raindrop Flower Necklace components - both the Raindrop Flower focal and a few of the accompanying beaded beads!

Awesome People

There's no other place where you can see so many fabulous bead artists under one roof! Sabine Lippert, (aka The Fastest Beader in the West), finished her Tila Garden Pendant in class!

My friend Susan Blessinger and I represented the San Diego contingency at the Bead Dreams Reception. Isn't her beach-inspired necklace awesome? (check out her Bead Dreams finalist entry, "The March Hare," here!)

And along with Marcia DeCoster, we made a trio of San Diego Bead Dreams Finalists! Marcia and I got the chance to model our respective pieces together (check out Marcia's blog for the story behind this collaborative piece between her and Sherry Serafini - truly a melding between the minds of masters!)

As a San Francisco Giants fan, I always have a reason to wear orange and black jewelry, but I didn't think that this color combo would be popular with any other beaders (outside of October). The always-fabulous Suzanne Golden totally proved me wrong!

I had the pleasure of meeting many of the fine people that work so hard to create all the little Japanese seed beads, Czech shaped beads, and sparkly crystals that bead artists adore. The folks at Miyuki took the time to take and present me with my own souvenir Beading Happiness photo. Cool huh?


On our last night in Milwaukee we were treated to a perfect view of a fireworks show, right from our hotel room!

A fitting end to a wonderful trip!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Endorphin Molecule


The endorphins are a class of natural feel-good molecules produced in your body. Indeed, the name "endorphin" means "endogenous morphine," so you can also think of them as your own personal pain relievers. They're neurotransmitters, like serotonin and dopamine, though they're polypeptides instead of small molecules. When you compare the sizes of these two types of molecules, the endorphins are  comparatively bigger (about 10-20 times bigger!)

There are a few different kinds of endorphins. Beta-endorphin is perhaps the most well-understood, and it's also the biggest at 31 amino acids long and about 500 atoms. Alpha-endorphin is about half that size, at 16 amino acids long.

And it's the perfect length for a beaded necklace.

Endorphin Molecule Necklace

This necklace depicts the molecular structure of the alpha-endorphin molecule in a three-dimensional, completely chemically-accurate representation, all rendered entirely in beadwork down to the last atom.

The small hydrogen atoms are represented by clusters of silver seed beads, while the carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen atoms are represented by light aqua, emerald, and light purple (respectively) clusters of bicone crystals. The slightly larger sulfur atom is represented by a cluster of slightly larger golden shadow bicone crystals. Like its molecular namesake, this beaded alpha-endorphin necklace contains 120 hydrogen atoms, 77 carbon atoms, 18 nitrogen atoms, 26 oxygen atoms, and one sulfur atom. The bonds between each atom are represented by silver bugle beads; one for single bonds, and two for double bonds.

The choice of crystal and metal-plated beads is a nod to the field of “crystallography,” which is a scientific technique used to make crystals out of molecules in order to study their chemical structures. Therefore, this piece is a new twist on the term "crystal structure" :)

A New Way to Bead a Molecule

The wonderful thing about this design is that its techniques can be applied to create a beaded version of almost any organic molecule! The Morning Coffee Molecules design is great for beading flat molecules such as caffeine, which is composed mostly of "sp2" atoms which make the molecule flat. However, most organic molecules are made up of a combination of sp2 and "sp3" atoms, which have a tetrahedral, 3D geometry to their bonds. The thread paths in this technique mimic both of these geometries, and the piece retains its structure through thread tension without any glues or stiffening agents.

Like a real polypeptide, this necklace also retains some flexibility, allowing it to bend and fold in on itself. But most remarkably, the atoms in this necklace can rotate around each single bond, just like in a real molecule!

I've tested it with other peptides, sugars, and small molecules, and I'm continually amazed at how well it works with so many different kinds of compounds. I feel like I've only scratched the surface of all the possibilities of this design, and I see a whole line of beaded molecules in my future beading projects.

Bead Dreams Finalist

This piece made the finals in the Finished Jewelry category in the 2013 Bead Dreams Competition. If you're going to the show, check it out in the display cases next to the registration desk!

If you're not going to the show, you can see this piece and all the other Bead Dreams Finalists here, and you can also vote for your favorite for the People's Choice Award.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


I'm headed out to the Bead & Button show today! I'm looking forward to seeing good friends, teaching enthusiastic students, and an abundance of beady inspiration!

I tested out my new booth setup for Meet the Teachers tomorrow night, and I think it turned out rather well.

Zero the cat seems to approve!

I'll try to remember to take more pictures at the show this year!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Heliotrope Tropical Dahlia Choker - Finished!

Presenting... The Heliotrope Tropical Dahlia choker, now finished!

Finished Necklace

I previously blogged about how I went about exploring this colorway of this design. To connect the individual Tropical Dahlias together, I took a cue from Gwen Fisher's Rivoli Sunflower bracelet and used sterling silver jump rings. I wanted to give an illusion that these beaded flowers were floating on the neck, so I used a minimal number of connecting seed beads between them and the jump rings, and no additional beads for stringing. I think it's a rather minimalist approach, but this rivoli + rizo + drop + rivoli pendant design is so detailed in the first place that they don't need much else to look fabulous.

I wove a total of nine Tropical Dahlias, which is just enough for a choker-length necklace. It's a bit shorter than the length that I usually wear, but if I made it much longer, the Tropical Dahlias wouldn't sit quite right; although the jump rings between them can move freely, the flowers tend to lean forward if they're not sitting right up against the neck. If I had to make this necklace in a longer length, I'd angle the connection bails to balance the piece out.

The jump rings themselves are pretty big, at about 14 mm in diameter. They're closed jump rings, so they should be more resistant to bends than open jump rings. I think I will eventually get a larger clasp for this piece, but a small S-clasp serves as a convenient temporary replacement.

Matching Earrings

Since I have a compulsion to create my jewelry in sets (my bead doctor has officially diagnosed me with "setitis"), I just had to weave a pair of matching earrings.

I had already created other versions of these earrings as part of the Tropical Dahlia Set pattern, but with only the floral component. For this version, I added a Swarovski briolette drop crystal to the bottom of each earring, which really kicks them up to the next level. It's amazing how this technically-simple bead addition adds so much to these earrings!

I'm looking forward to wearing this set at Bead & Button next week! I believe that I shall wear it on Friday :)
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