Wednesday, September 28, 2011

CHALLENGE Response: Designing Jewelry to fund African Orphans

In our final "Challenge Response," we hear from Gayle, who tells us about how she puts her talents to use for a very special group of people, much in need.  (Gayle writes the blog, "This Artist's Journey," and has the "Kit and Caboodle Shop" on Etsy.  Please stop by both!)

Purpose.  I think we all have a need to feel like we have a purpose in life.  A reason we were born.  A reason we take up space on this big planet we call earth.  For me, I feel my purpose for being here is to create.  Whether it is painting, drawing, or making jewelry, my purpose is to create something beautiful.  

I create jewelry as part of this purpose.  But I also have a strong desire to help those who are alone, abandoned, malnourished, diseased or unloved.  It is the same purpose really: to create something beautiful.  Give an orphan a family, give a child a home, feed those who are dying of starvation, heal the wounds of the sick, or comfort those who grieve, these are beautiful things.

I create jewelry for the purpose of making something beautiful.  In one sense a bracelet or necklace becomes a smile or hug, a bandage or home.  I sell my jewelry to help fund ministries that help the less fortunate: the orphans, the widows, the homeless.  I may not be directly designing jewelry for this group of people, yet in a sense I am, because I can see a a plate of food in a pair of earrings or a warm sweater in a necklace.  

My husband and I work for a ministry, Tractors for Our Daily Bread, that provides resources and help to the most desperate of people.  Right now we are planning to send food aid to the famine area in the horn of Africa.  We've sent 260,000 meals already through World Help and we are planning to send another 260,000 meals next week. The refugees in Kenya are the most desperate of people today.  I just hope it is not too late to create a little beauty in that part of the world.

Photo Credits:

Photographs provided by Gayle, 2011.


This entry will be the last formal posting in this round of our "CHALLENGE:  Designing Jewelry for Special Audiences."   Please continue contributing to the discussion with your comments and questions.   

I will give this a couple of days for contemplation, then write a wrap-up piece.  There have been so many wonderful, varied projects discussed, I will have my own "challenge" ahead of me!    Thank you, Gayle, and all!  


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

CHALLENGE Response: Designing Plus Size Jewelry

I'm finding them everywhere!   Special designers designing jewelry for special audiences.    Karyn Lewis of Plus Size Bangles was just featured on the Art Bead Scene Blog and you must check this out!    

Below is one of Karyn's signature 8" bracelets:

Earthy, Glass, Wood & Green 8 inch Handmade Bracelet

from "Plus Size Bangles"

Wooden Pagoda Blue Drop Earrings

from "Plus Size Bangles"
(Karyn said I could pick out whatever pieces I wanted to appear in this feature, and I was immediately drawn to these two. I found them in different areas, and when I put them together, realized they went really nice together! Don't you think?!)   

Thank you, Karyn, for sharing what you do with us!  


Photo Credits:

Photographs on this page shown on this page printed with permission from "Plus Size Jewelry."

Monday, September 26, 2011

CHALLENGE Response: Tracy Bell talks about "Beads of Courage" Program

For our next response, I'd like to direct you to "Beads of Courage" from the "Copper, Glass and Recycled Trash"  blog of Tracy Bell!  Tracy made a comment regarding Lori Anderson's work on the last entry. I followed to her blog, and found her doing her own good deeds "designing for special audiences"--the theme of our challenge.  As they say, "the rest is history."

She will tell you about her day with other artists making beads for children with cancer, but it's not just a one-day event; it's ongoing, and sounds like work for a good cause  and a whole lot of fun!  Read on...

Funky Rainbow Ribbon Beads 
by TracyBell

Note from Sharyl:  

Our guest today also has a shop on Etsy, TracyBell, and she has one less item to sell today because I just snatched it up!   Please pay her shop a visit too!

Photo Credit:

"Funky Rainbow Ribbon Beads by TracyBell" from her Etsy shop,


I'm expecting one more submission for the Challenge, but there's still time for others to meet the Sept. 28th deadline!  Please send me your text by e-mail or add your ideas, projects, or questions as a "Comment!"  Thanks for the lively discussion!

Friday, September 23, 2011

CHALLENGE Response: Lori Anderson on Creating Jewelry for Special Causes

I asked and we received!  Below, Lori Anderson tells us about the jewelry she makes for special causes, how she got started and what it means to her. You can find the jewelry featured here in the "Awareness" section of her jewelry website, Lori Anderson Designs.

I started my awareness section with: 

  • ovarian cancer awareness jewelry (the teal color is the awareness color for this scary, silent cancer).  I had been asked by the Central Maryland division of to participate in their annual event, Rejuvenate, and to make some special awareness jewelry for them.  Later, I made combination ovarian/breast cancer bracelet and earrings because these two cancers often appear together.  

"Free Spirit" by Lori Anderson

  • From there, I was asked to participate with the Breast Cancer Survivor's Tea, which was an event held for breast cancer survivors who had participated in the Race for the Cure.  I made jewelry for sale, but I also made jewelry for auction and giveaway.

  • I started making diabetes awareness jewelry (gray is the ribbon color) because it runs in my family.  I've found a lot of diabetics didn't even know they HAD a ribbon or a color for this disease, and some of my more glitzy and glamorous-style diabetes awareness jewelry has been popular with them.

  • I have IH/Pseudotumor Cerebri, a debilitating condition that right now has no cure and presents with horrible migraines in the eyes, optic nerve damage, and possible blindness.  The color for this is dark green and dark blue, and a couple of my best customers bought my first pieces in honor of me -- I can't tell you what that means to me.

  • I make Pet Adoption Awareness jewelry (purple ribbon) because I volunteer at a shelter and have rescue kitties.  I strongly believe in adopting cats and dogs and stopping puppy and kitty mills.  

  • Finally, I make Celiac Awareness bracelets (light green ribbon) because a friend of mine has a daughter with celiac disease.  

I make awareness jewelry for causes I either am involved with or because friends of mine are directly affected.  I also like to make awareness jewelry that doesn't look like what you normally see out in the marketplace.  I like to use crystal, gemstones, handmade glass, and all kinds of different styles.  My heart goes into each piece, and a lot of hope, too.____________________________________Our special thanks to Lori for sharing this entry with us, and for allowing us a closeup view of her lovely jewelry too!(Please note that the emphasis added with colors and bold lettering was added by me as I prepared the text for the blog.)I encourage anyone who would like to submit their own "CHALLENGE Response" on the topic of "Designing Jewelry for Special Audiences."  There is still time to share your own projects, ideas, and/or questions on the topic prior to Sept. 28.   Thanks to all who have already participated with special entries or comments!   --Sharyl  Sharyl's Jewelry

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

CHALLENGE Response: Designing Jewelry for Seniors with Special Needs

My mother was very sweet.  That's what everyone said about her... while she was living, and afterward too.  "Sweet" was the word most commonly used to describe her.  And it was true.

My mother also had many physical problems. She fell a lot and in doing so, managed to tear both rotator cuffs.   She couldn't lift her arms over her head the last couple years of her life.

My mother had Alzheimer's.

My mother liked dressing up, and liked to wear jewelry. Every day.

She had a lot of jewelry.  Some of it I made.
My mother couldn't  well, so we tried to help her.  She couldn't reach or lift, so we tried to help with that too. 
Gradually, I learned to  life  more as she did.
Step #1
I thought about how I would put on and take off jewelry if I couldn't lift my arms.  I wouldn't be able to hold my arms in the air and open a clasp.  I would keep my arms close to my body, elbows to my side, bend my stiff neck down, and slip the necklace over my head.  So I began to  
pendants for her.  I put them on long chains that would not need to be unfastened.
Step #2
When she went to the nursing facility to live,  of course she wanted to take jewelry.  She couldn't take any expensive jewelry, but she could take mine.  That suited her fine.  She had other long chain necklaces too, and chain extenders for shorter ones. We got a plastic container with dividers and filled it up so she would have lots of jewelry to wear.

This is not a necklace that belonged to my mother;  
it's one I made for myself, 
but it's similar in design to some I made for her.  
While I put her pendants on long chains, 
I've since started putting every pendant I sell 
on long ribbons so they may be worn as they are 
or the buyer can switch to a chain.   
I make sure they are long enough to fit 
over most head sizes with ease.
There is no clasp involved.  
I find this quick & handy for myself too, 
& hope others like it as well.

When I took her clothing home to clean each week, I would attach her pins to her jackets in advance. (She wore jackets summer and winter because she always felt cold--"like Mother, like daughter!")  The jackets and jewelry were ready to go when she was.  Forget the old rule that you don't wear a pin and a necklace together.  I don't know if any of you still abide by that one, but my mom did not!  Jewelry helped her feel good about herself and was one thing that was "the same" as before.  The monetary value was not important.  It was whether she liked the thing or not that made  it a 
.  (We think alike here too.)

My mother taught me to think creatively to achieve what we both desired--in this case jewelry that she could easily wear--jewelry that she could manage on her own.

My mother's Alzheimer's taught me to live in the , to  , because there is not much of an awareness of yesterday or tomorrow.   It's only today that exists.  The "here and now."  After being around people with Alzheimer's daily for over a year, that thinking pattern became "normal" to me, and it remained with me for a very long while afterward.   

The lessons I learned about jewelry-making, and the lessons I learned about life, and the time I spent with my mother, I will .

© 2011 Sharyl McMillian-Nelson

  • Graphics made from Colorbok punch-out kit then scanned. Visit for more information.
  • Necklace by Sharyl.
  • Pin, a gift we brought my mother from Hawaii.
  • Photos by Sharyl.

    Please post your ideas and questions for the "CHALLENGE" soon!  A link is attached to the original post in case you've forgotten or missed what it was all about.   This discussion thread ends next week (Wed., Sept. 28th) and we'll summarize then.  I would love to hear from you!   

    Many thanks!  --Sharyl

    Tuesday, September 20, 2011

    Events Worth Celebrating

    My topic today is a little different.  I'd like to bring  attention to a couple of upcoming events I find of importance.  (Of course, I've managed to work jewelry in at the end.  It's not my jewelry, but you can shop if you like!)

    Wednesday, Sept. 21st, is the International Day of PeaceI hope you'll take a moment of your day to watch this documentary on how one person started an international movement toward peace:  "Peace One Day."   
    It asks the question, "What will you do for peace?"

    My answer to the question "What will you do?" is to help spread the word of this day through this medium since it is available to me.  That seems so simple, yet I feel very fortunate to be able to do that freely.  The same Amendment that allows me Freedom of Speech has a connection to the next event...
    September 24-October 1, 2011 is Banned Books Week.  It exists to celebrate the U.S. First Amendment Rights that give us the Freedom to Read.  For more information on this event, and a list of frequently banned and challenged books, please visit the American Library Association's website, "Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read."   Challenges to having books accessible to the public in library collections have been made on classical literature, children's classics, religious texts, popular fiction, comics, and other genres.  (And I'm speaking about in the last few years.)   Don't be surprised to find a favorite book of yours in these lists.

    Regarding jewelry:
    • If you are in the mood to shop to support this cause, check out these bracelets sold at the ALA Store featuring banned books.  (I don't know if they are handmade, but they are still very cool!)   
    • I also found these library-related jewelry items on Etsy.  Who knew?!  :-)
    • To find jewelry with peace as its theme, take a look at this Etsy page.  There are some lovely things!

    Thanks so much for listening.   Next time we'll be back to creating our own jewelry and the "CHALLENGE: Designing Jewelry for Special Audiences!"  (**By the way, I'm moving that Sept. 22nd deadline back to Sept. 28th, hoping to give everyone more time to submit your ideas!**)

    See you then!  --Sharyl
    Sharyl's Jewelry (& Librarian)  --------------------------------

    P.S.  While I know she follows many blogs, I'd like to officially welcome Lori Anderson to our group of followers!  It's an honor to have her join us!  Lori is well-known in the jewelry world.  She has several sites including the blogs, "Pretty Things," and "An Artist's Year Off," and her website where she sells her jewelry ("Lori Anderson Designs," ).  She is the author of many articles as well as a forthcoming book.  You can read more about her fascinating life journey on her website.  

    As I mentioned recently, Lori organizes the Bead Soup Blog Parties.  Check out the most recent results!  I've got the advertisement for the next party up on the right side of the page, but I'm having trouble linking to the information.  While I work that out, you can link to it from here.   

    Thanks again, Lori, and welcome!
    *Photo Credit:  NASA. "Peace in the Galaxy.

    *Photo Credit:  Stack of banned/challenged books by Sharyl, 9/2011   (Just a few from our family's collection!)

    *Visit here to learn more about ALA's stand on Intellectual Freedom.

    Monday, September 19, 2011

    CHALLENGE Response: Krista's Family Jewelry-making Day!

    Krista has been at it again--and this time her family got involved for a day of creating jewelry.  So we not only have jewelry-making for kids going on, we have kids making jewelry, and grandmothers making jewelry, and... well, you'll see! 

    Young hands at work.

    Notes from Krista:

    Here are some of the things we made! 

    The black necklace is my Mom's creation.

    I made the red earrings.

    My son made the bracelet with the blue and green for his Aunt.  I made the earrings to go with it.

    I made the purple bracelet for my daughter.

    We are having a good time!  


    After the gathering, Krista makes one more item, a gift for a niece.

    Bead-artist making selections and stringing bracelet.


    I think the jewelry looks great, and I'm so glad you turned this into a fun, multi-generational family event!  Thanks to you, Krista, and your family, for sharing your day with all of us!  --Sharyl

    P.S.  I'm hoping to hear more from everyone as we continue with our "CHALLENGE:  Designing Jewelry for Special Audiences!"

    • All photos by Krista, 9/11
    • Jewelry by Krista & Family

    Saturday, September 17, 2011

    "Bead Soup Blog Party"--Results are In--Don't Miss It!

    I interrupt our own "CHALLENGE:  Designing Jewelry for Special Audiences" ... make sure no one misses the "BEAD SOUP Blog Party" results that were announced today!  I've been hearing about this on jewelry blogs for weeks now, but until looking at the swaps of beads and the amazing results, I truly had no idea what a marvelous event this is!   

    Here are the guidelines.   A package for swapping might look something like what I've put together in these photos, although all I saw were significantly more elaborate and each must include a nice clasp.

    I've only made it through 10 or so swaps today (that's 20 people's jewelry), so still have a lot to go, but some are SPLENDID and all are interesting, and there's something to be learned by looking at each of them!   

    • Along with Lori's creations, one of the most lovely I've seen so far comes from "Silver Parrot!"
    But I wish to insult no one--there are many, many pairs of people who swapped beads and made wonderfully creative jewelry from them!   (181 pairs, to be exact.)    Please check them out!   (Some even have give-aways of their jewelry.)  Others will give you some of the best ideas you'll ever see from the most talented jewelry artists around!   So be sure to take some time to look around...and enjoy!   



    Wednesday, September 14, 2011

    CHALLENGE Response: Rock Jewelry for Kids (+ Another type of "rock!")

    Continuing with our "Challenge," I have a couple more ideas to share on the theme of designing for young people.  This time, the jewelry I'm describing can easily be worn by both genders.   It's very inexpensive to make and is made with items you most likely have on hand.   It begins like this....

    1) Find one rock.
    2) Find some string or cord (black or tan are my usual favorites, but other colors would be great too)
    3) Add a neutral accent bead (something wood, stone, or metal works well)
    4) Finally, you'll need jewelry wire (copper, silver over copper, or color of choice.)

    General Notes:   

    • If you are doing this with a child, selecting the rock(s) may be the most fun part for them.  It may depend on their age and interest level.  You may hunt for the rocks in your yard or a park, or (if you live no where near a rock), you can buy a small package of decorative rocks from a craft store.  These are typically used in clear glass jars.  
    • The wire wrapping is never quite as easy as it looks.  It may take more than one try to get it to stay unless you are already proficient at wrapping unevenly shaped  beads without drilled holes.   Once you finish, be sure to take pliers to mash the wire closely to the stone so no gaps or sharp edges protrude.
    • Each necklace will turn out a bit different.
    • Kids may become frustrated trying to wrap the wire and get it to stay.   This project is probably best done with adult participation, or an adult may want to make the necklace(s) as a gift to a young person.
    • Adults sometimes like wearing these necklaces too!

    I admit, these are not the best ones I've ever made.   Those I gave away!   These are just a couple of quick examples to give you an idea of the options:

    I made this one just moments ago. 
     This is the more simple side.  
    The other side has more twisted wire.   
    There is a black wooden bead at the top and a black cord.
      There is no fancy latch, just a knot.

    The rock has been wrapped in the manner of a crystal.  To do this you start with 2 pieces of wire and twist in the middle, hold the wire against the rock, wrap the wire to the other side and twist again.  In the "Rules according to Sharyl" at least, there's no "wrong way" to go as long as the rock gets held in place and you end up with a way to attach the string to the pendant when finished.

    I made this one last  year.   The wire work is looser.   
    If a child were making a rock necklace 
    on their own for the first time, 
    it might look more like this!  My belief:   
    As long as the stone doesn't fall out and drop on a foot
    --and the young person is happy with the results
    --it's a good necklace!

    I tend to be pretty relaxed about gender and jewelry.  Anyone can wear what they want and feel good in.   But I think under more traditional standards, the two above would work for boys (and girls too), while the next one has a more feminine look to it.

    A very similar necklace could be made starting 
    with a stone similar to the ones above, 
    then add pastel accent beads.  
    Or in this case, I've used other beads completely.  
    Like many of my pendants, this one has been put on ribbon, but I've made a necklace similar to this for a girl 
    using a color cord.

    A note on safety concerns:
    • It's probably not advisable to give a rock/bead necklace to a child under the age of 3 or to their siblings.   (In fact, I would be concerned about giving them any jewelry with beads that are a size that could be  swallowed.) 
    • The cords can also pose a choking hazard to some young ones.  As one gift recipient's mom mentioned to me, they would enjoy the necklace for special occasions, but not wear on the bus.  (Not until then did I recall the warnings about sweatshirt strings for kids riding buses.)  I don't think she was being overprotective here (especially knowing how lively this lovely child is.)   We all want kids to be safe, so we must use caution when designing for young children.

    That said, I do hope you enjoy these few ideas about making jewelry for young people.  I hope to hear more from you on these and other topics in our special challenge!   


    P.S.  I try not to wander too far from the topic of jewelry, but I saw a blog post Monday regarding lizards,..."Random Lizard Drive-By" on "Silver Parrot Fine Artisan Jewelry."  (I had a chuckle, and thought you might enjoy reading that, so I've linked the title.)

    On Tuesday,... I put my head and hand around the corner of my front door, planning to reach into the mail box to see if my latest order of beads had arrived.  I found this on the top...

    ...and my first thought was, "How did that rock get on top of the mail box?"  Then I looked closer...

    I still don't know how that thing got on top of the mail box or how it got down, but it did!   If there's a moral to the story, I guess it's this: When you reach for those jewelry-making stones, take a good, close look before you pick one up!  

    Just a bit of friendly advice from Sharyl's Jewelry!  :-)

    Image Credits: