Saturday, January 23, 2016

Repurposed Vintage Earrings

In my last post, I showed some of my mother's vintage costume jewelry that I have been sorting through and photographing. In this post, I will show a few more pieces and walk through the repurposing process of one of the pairs of earrings.

The picture above shows a summarization of the repurposing process I used for my earrings.  I'll go through details of the process in a bit, but first let me show some collage photos of a few of the treasures I came across and photographed from my Mom's collection.

Many of these pieces are in really great shape! The first one is a collection of faux pearl and white beaded necklaces:

This second collage is a collection of pink beaded designs - also mostly in really nice shape. My mother's favorite color was pink and she had a good quantity of pink jewelry - not all of it is pictured here but here are a few:

I'm not sure yet which of the above pieces I might decide to repurpose. Some of them are so pretty, I might just leave "as is."

But I came across these ear-bobs below and knew they needed repurposing ... they were in pretty bad shape:
 The large center beads were already disconnected from the ear-bobs, and the clip-on backs were missing. As can be seen, there is also a good bit of corrosion and debris on the metal backings.

First thing was to disassemble the beads and components - the beads were held together on the brass backings with some very old and disintegrating wire.  I just cut the wire with a pair of wire cutters and wound up with this collection of pieces:
Next I cleaned the beads, the metal backings, and the gold colored bead caps. I first used warm soapy water and a toothbrush which helped some.  Then I tried a technique I had read about using worcestershire sauce to soak and scrub. In the end, I couldn't get the metal backings totally clean but was able to restore the bead caps to a fairly good shine - although some of the gold plating was worn off:

I decided for my design I would make a pair of dangle earrings out of some of the beads and bead caps. I used some gold plated wire to make a knotted headpin and added some wire-wrapping around the top bead. The earring wires are made of gold colored craft wire which I formed into a pair of french hook ear wires:

And voila! Something new from something old!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

My Mother's Vintage Jewelry

Two years ago I started going through my mother's vast collection of vintage costume jewelry. These beautiful treasures were passed on to me after her passing in 2013. I wrote about some of these pieces in a blog post two years ago - you can click here to read that post.

Well I put the jewelry aside for a while and am now revisiting the adventure of going through all these marvelous pieces. My attention was redirected to the jewelry after my brother and sister-in-law found even more of my Mom's jewelry while helping my Dad sort through some things at his home.

This spectacular necklace is a triple strand of dark cream faux pearls and aurora borealis crystals. It is a choker style measuring 15 inches plus a three inch extender chain. I love this piece for its bold deco styling!

This next piece I'm pretty sure was one of my Mom's favorites because it is in her favorite color which was pink!  It is another triple stranded faux pearl necklace in several rich vibrant hues of pink.  There is hot pink, light pink and some hints of purple and lavender in some of the beads. The eclectic mixture of pearls, glass beads and fire-polished crystals is just my Mom's style! It is a choker style measuring 15 inches plus a two inch beaded extender.

Now I need to decide on whether to keep these pieces "as is" or to disassemble and repurpose them into something different. Comments and suggestions are welcome!

And if you want to see more pieces from my Mom's collection, you can visit my Pinterest board dedicated to her collection.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Make Your On-Line Photos Pop With This Photoshop Tutorial!

If you sell anything online, you know how important it is to produce high quality images to showcase your designs. In this post, I will show how I use Photoshop to edit my images to give them a little pizzaz.  You can take an ordinary photo and transform it into something truly amazing like the BEFORE and AFTER photos above.

Let me preface this tutorial by saying that I am using the approach that you know very little about Photoshop. If you are an advanced or experienced user, you might find it overly simplified.  That being said, I have tried to break every step down incrementally to show you exactly how it is done.

In this tutorial, I am using a Mac computor with Photoshop C6. Since I design and sell jewelry, I will be using a photo with a pair of earrings as an example.

Okay, let's get started!
First make sure you have a high quality photo that is crystal  clear. Here is my original photo without editing other than cropping the size down.

1.  Open up Photoshop. Here is a screenshot of my Photoshop screen:

2.  Create a new file. To do this click on File at the top of your screen and in the drop down menu click New:

3.  A pop-up window will now appear prompting you to name your file.  By default it is called Untitled.  Rename it - I am naming my file Earrings1. In the same pop-up window you can set the size.  The size will likely be a default size, so be sure to check and change the size if you need to. I have set the size of my file to 1200 pixels width by 800 pixels height.  Now click OK.

Here is a screenshot of my new blank file:

4.  Duplicate your layer by right clicking on Background layer, then select Duplicate Layer.

You will now want to work in your Background copy layer. Notice the Background Copy layer at the right side of your screen is highlighted - this is how you know that you are working using that layer and not the original Background layer.

5.  Now working in your Background Copy layer, choose a foreground color. To do this, click on the Foreground Color icon at the left of your screen - it looks like two little colored squares.  Clicking on the top little square of this icon will cause a pop-up window to appear labeled Color Picker (Foreground Color.)  Note that if you click on the bottom little square, you will be selecting a Background Color instead of Foreground Color.

What's the difference between Background and Foreground?  Photoshop uses the foreground color to pain, fill and stroke colors.  The background color is used to fill in erased areas of an image.

Now in the Color Picker window click on a color of your choosing.  Since I want some contrast against the somewhat light grayish white background in the photo, I am selecting a medium to dark gray background color. Press OK to confirm your color choice.

6.  Next click on the Paint Bucket tool on the left side of your Photoshop screen.  Left click the little paint bucket over the white background with the paint bucket to "paint" your foreground.  Here is my new gray colored foreground:

7.  Now drag your photo to inside the file.  You will have a big X across the screen until you have finished placing the photo.  To place the photo, click on the check mark at the top of your screen.  

After placing it, the big X across your photo will disappear:

8.  Click on the Ellipse tool and place your cursor in the middle of your photo and left click.  A small box will pop up prompting you to Create Ellipse. By default, the size  of the ellipse is set to 100 x 100 pixels as shown below:

Go ahead and change the size to 1200 x 800 pixels.  Then click OK:

9.  You will now see an elliptical oval encircling your photo. Now right click anywhere outside the ellipse shape and click Make Selection in the pop-up window:

A small box will appear entitled Make Selection. You will see an option for Feather Radius which by default is usually set to zero.

I am setting the feather radius to 110.  The higher you set it the more "feathery" the edges of your photo will be against your darker background.

9.  Now right click again outside the dotted elliptical shape and click on the option Rasterize Layer.

10.  Next click on the word Select at the top of your Photoshop toolbar.  Then from the options given click Inverse.

Now your file will also have a dotted line around the entire file looking like this:

11.  Click on Edit at the top of your Photoshop tool bar and from the options click Clear.  Here is what your image will look like:

12.  Now you are finished except for Saving your file.  To save, click on File at the top of your Photoshop toolbar, then click Save As and unless you want to change the name of your File name just click Save.  Be sure to choose from the options given where you want to save your file to.  In the example below I am saving it to Work Folder but you can save it just to your Desktop if you prefer.  Note that this will save it in PSD format which will enable you to have this file to come back to and edit if needed.

Now you need to save the file in JPG format.  To do this, again click on File, then Save As, then change the format to JPG and click Save:

And here is your finished photo:

If you like more definition in the different foreground and background colors, just lower the feather radius from step 8 in the tutorial.  Here is another photo of the same earrings using a lower feather radius of 30 instead of 110:

There are lots of other ways to individualize your photo. For example, I used a neutral gray foreground color in the example above.  Here are some photos of the same image using blue and pink colors for the foreground:


Although I am far from being an expert in photo editing, I do hope this tutorial has been helpful!  I have been using Photoshop for about 2 1/2 years and have learned to love it. But it has at times been a love-hate relationship.  It is not a very intuitive program for someone like myself without any formal education or training in photo-editing.  Put simply, it is not always easy to figure out what I am doing. I have learned and continue to learn techniques literally millimeter by millimeter. So this is why I wanted to share this one small technique.

I welcome questions, comments and feedback!

Till next time,

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Upcycled Vintage Rhinestone Earrings - From My Grandmother's Collection

Last week I went to say good-bye to my grandmother who passed away just three weeks shy of her 103rd birthday. The service was inspirational and was truly a celebration of her long and meaningful life.

Although it is impossible to completely capture the essence of her life, I feel compelled to at least note some of life highlights of my Grandmother - Creola May Starnes:

  • Born in Arkansas in 1912. 
  • Moved with her family to North Carolina in her early teens.
  • Married at age 15 to my Grandfather and raised five children - my mother being the oldest.
  • Spent countless hours volunteering and being active in her church.
  • Earned a business degree while in her forties - keep in mind this was in the 1950's when many women did not go to college much less consider getting a business degree.
  • Established the first church daycare center in the city of Kannapolis, NC because she saw a need for working mothers to have access to child care.
  • After raising their five children, she and my Grandfather moved to Winston Salem, NC and served several years as house-parents for adolescent parentless boys.
  • Retired and moved to Waxhaw, NC where she became an advocate for seniors and their caregivers.
  • Obtained certification in Gerontology from Livingstone College and served as President of the Union County NC Chapter of AARP.
  • Retired a second time at age 78 and became caregiver for my Grandfather who had developed Alzheimer's - she cared for him until his death in 1989.
  • After surviving her husband's death, she lived another 26 years until the age of 103.  Her legacy continues through her 16 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.

I like to try to keep the memory alive of those who I have known and loved. I was fortunate enough to be given some of my Grandmother's old vintage jewelry. And I decided that I would like to repurpose some of these treasures so that I could wear and cherish them while continuing to honor her life for years to come.

This pair of vintage clip-on rhinestone earrings has lots of history and I could not bear thinking of these pretty pieces just sitting somewhere in a drawer. So I decided to convert them into a pair of post earrings that I could wear and enjoy and remember my Grandmother every time I wear them.  Here is what they originally looked like:

The first thing I had to do was to remove the screw-on clips. I did this by snipping them with a pair of wire cutters, then filed off the rough edges with a jewelry file. This is how they look with the backs snipped off and filed:

Next, I found a pair of post earrings to set the rhinestone dangles onto. I liked these pretty antique silver posts that I bought from

Then I used E-6000 glue to attach the dangles onto the posts.  I use E-6000 for any jewelry project requiring glue because it holds forever - and I do mean forever! The only tricky part was finding a way to hold the posts upright and flat in order to give time for the glue to set - it takes 24 hours for E-6000 glue to set.  So it is important to find a way to stabilize it while it sets. 

What I came up with was folding and taping a piece of bubble wrap, then sticking the posts down into the bubble wrap. Then I used a dab of glue (it only takes a dab) to adhere the rhinestone dangles onto the posts. To make sure there was good adherence I placed a piece of tape across the top of the earrings and let it set for 24 hours:

And after 24 hours, here is what they looked like:

I am quite pleased with the outcome and can't wait to wear them!  I just love the idea of wearing something that my Grandmother once wore.

I will not be selling this pair of earrings, but I have lots of other items for sale in my two Etsy shops: