Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Very Charming Announcement!

Over the weekend I ran out to Barnes and Nobles looking for inspiration on the bookshelves and nearly fell over when I got there! I've been eagerly waiting to make this announcement for my copy to arrive in the mail, but apparently it has taken a slight detour due to my change of address this year. I knew that it was available on Amazon, but wasn't expecting to see it on the shelves of my local book store already.

A Charming Exchange is a collaboration started by Kelly Snelling and Ruth Rae, inspired by a round robin charm swap involving 24 other artists. Ruth began a blog to have one place where each artist could give instructions on the charm she had created and from there the idea for the book was born.

How lucky to be included, not only in the initial round robin (which I managed to get in by the skin of my teeth!) but to have it turn into a book!

As the book project began I was asked to be a part of a round robin group project specifically for the book with 4 other artists. Each one of us began a necklace or a bracelet and sent it off, round robin style, to the next participant, who then added their own elements and passed it on to the next person.

Here are photos I took of each necklace or bracelet as it passed through my hands. Each of these are featured in the book and many have step-by-step instructions for creating some of the charms shown.

Ruth Rae, the host of the original charm swap and co-author of the book, created this wonderful bracelet and an equally wonderful felt carrier to keep it in. Be sure to check out her instructions in the book for both the carrier, and her layered centerpiece for the bracelet.

The little riveted wing charm below is my contribution to Ruth's bracelet:

"Gothic Romance" necklace by Catherine Witherell. Romantic to the very core of the felted heart centerpiece Catherine created. I can't tell you how intimidated this necklace made me. Of course, I felt that way each time one of these talented artist's works arrived in my mailbox!
In order to get over my fear of ruining somebody else's work, I would display the necklace in my studio when it arrived and "live with it" for a time. As I grew more comfortable with the piece, touching it and getting a sense of the artists style, I could let myself go and begin to be inspired.

My addition to Catherine's necklace is the peek-a-boo style charm at the center top. The antique religious charm swings to the side and reveals an antique image of a flower and the word "beauty". The word "strength" is etched at the bottom.

Here is the spread from the book featuring my necklace, "History Lesson":

Unfortunately the photos I took before I let it go were on the blurry side. It was such a flurry of activity to finish and get the pieces out by the deadline that I didn't stop to think I would probably never have these items in my hand again and lost the opportunity to get really good photos.

I am delighted with the way it came together. I created the centerpiece from an antique camera lens, which was empty when it left me. It was also swinging from side to side on the steel wire bar. But these were opportunities for the other participants to "fill in the blanks" and they did quite nicely!

Next Deryn Mentock's finely crafted necklace arrived in my mailbox. Deryn is an amazing jewelry artist and the one who recommended me to Ruth for this round robin. I bow to her talent, not only with working the steel wire with the ease of fine silver, but also with an eye for composition, which she has taken to an extraordinary level.
Be sure to stop by her blog to see her Shepherd's Amulet Bag, which she created for the Amulet bag challenge presented by Ruth for the book.

And finally this fantasy fairy necklace arrived by Jessica Moreau-Berry. I was one of the first to work on Jessica's necklaces so it looks a little bare in this photo, but the finished piece is so whimsical and I half expected to see elves jump out of the package when it showed up. I don't think I've ever wanted to dance through a woodland meadow as much as when I was working on this piece.
As a matter of fact, I don't think I ever wanted to dance through a woodland meadow before at all. But check out the finished project in the book and see if it doesn't make you feel the same way!

As part of this group of 5 artists, I was also invited to contribute to the cover project. To create my charm I used an antique earing, an old brown ribbon, and antique MOP button.

The bracelet has a story of how it came to be. Be sure to read about it in the book and watch the website for an announcement of when this piece and others from the book will be auctioned off for a great cause, breast cancer research.

There were other group projects that I participated in, including earring swaps, that you can see in the book, along with some other charms I created that wound up being used in some really cool pieces. Here are some photos of my charms, but you really have to get the book to see the finished pieces!

This piece "XOXO" was created from two antique wood printers blocks, two antique tintype photos, old wire and nails salvaged from other items, and one tiny link from an antique cuckoo clock chain:

Kelly, the author of the book, created a gothic style necklace to show off the charm and then Ruth stepped out instructions on doing something similar if you don't have genuine tintype photo's to use.

This side isn't shown in the book:

I brought these elements together:

And created this charm, which also wound up being used as the centerpiece for a necklace in the book:

And finally I was surprised and delighted to find that my amulet bag was featured and instructions stepped out by Ruth on creating the wire cage.

This piece was inspired by the scripture verse "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." 2 Corinthians 4:7

The top of the cage is designed to look like the crown of thorns.

This necklace is big and clunky and could never really be worn, but I really love it anyway and just thrilled to death that it was included, along with my explanation of the inspiration from Gods word!

To Him be the Glory.


  1. Congratulations Crytal, I am so happy for you that your amazing work was in this deserve it!!!!! I am always in awe of your creations and the meaning behind them.


  2. Congratulations, Crystal! Thanks for sharing the photos on this book. It looks awesome and I've put it on my wishlist for my next Amazon order! Can't wait to start experimenting! ~Joann

  3. Your projects are beautiful, but those poor tintypes! How about using scanned images on cardstock or other paper? I know it's not as authentic, but...those poor tins!

  4. Thank-you for commenting on my art and for your concern over the tintype photos.

    I am an artist with a passion for the lost history surrounding a photo or an object and it does just break my heart to find these items languishing away at a flea market or estate sale with no connection to the family they once belonged to.

    As a collector I have done research to determine a fair value for the items I work with and collect. I do scan images that are deemed more valuable by collectors standards, but for the most part I only purchase the ones that are deemed of no value or very little value to collectors because they are damaged, faded, or in the case of the tintypes rusty or from a collection where multiples of the same person were printed. Oftentimes this will be the case in tintype photos. They were considered of low quality and frequently the photographer was a beach side or traveling photographer catering to the common class tourists. The gem sizes sold for 10cents per dozen and it isn't uncommon to find the same image being sold in multiple quantities.

    This discussion was recently presented in two different art groups I belong to, and I share the same view as many others, in that, in using these items I am giving them a chance at a new life. If you have ever visited a flea market you know that there are literally hundreds and hundreds of photos that are passed along by history collectors and will one day find there way back into the bottom of the box they were brought out of because nobody knows what to do with them.

    When I use these photos or objects in my art, they can once again be displayed and honored and enjoyed. I pray that some day the items of my everyday life will be honored in the same way.

    Thanks so much, again, for commenting and for stopping by my blog!

  5. Crystal, I loved all your work on this project. Your talisman was incredible (I got to see it at Kelly's house!) It was wonderful to get to hold the pieces in my hands and add to them. It's a great book...isn't it?! I'm thrilled with it and honored to have worked with this group!

  6. OH!! This brings back such FABULOUS memories...and I urge you...GO DANCE WITH THE ELVES!! LOL!


  7. What a great review Crystal! I loved working on your necklace and it turned out beautifully. Also, I just saw Ruth and she showed me the Gothic Romance necklace which I hadn't seen since it left my house way back I don't even remember when actually. January 2007?

    It was so much fun working on these pieces. I will never forget it.

    xo Catherine

  8. Crystal,
    I lOVE this book! I got it two weeks ago and it's wonderful. Full of ideas and inspirations!!

  9. Crystal, I loved the book, and have begun to use some of what I've learned in my own creations. I am so happy to finally come upon your blog and am about to add you to my blog roll.

  10. I LOOOOVE the book - it was a complete (and super wonderful)surprise to me to find you in there after I got home to drink it all in -- IT IS INCREDIBLY GORGEOUS!
    I snagged mine from BORDERS BOOKS :)


  11. Crystal ~ your work is beautiful! I think I'll have to go find the Charming Exchange book now...

    Could I ask a technical question please? I have saved bits and pieces over the years and am itching to create my own jewelry or mixed media collage art pieces. I am hesitant about combining them for jewelry. I don't want them to fall apart, lol! I was looking at the green & brass piece near the bottom of this post. Do you solder items like that or do you use a stong glue? Seems if I could get past this fear of pieces falling apart I could get going with what I have in my mind. Thank you!

  12. Lana - I can so relate to feeling hesitant about using the pieces you have been saving for so long. I collected these items for literally years and years before I became brave enough to use them. I finally realized there was no time like the present and no project like the one I'm working on to bring out my favorite treasures to use. After all, just what are we saving them for? The next generation to discover and create with? When I find myself feeling frozen over using something in an assemblage or collage that I've been saving for something "really special" or for when I develop those skills I have yet to develop, I push past with a mental "just do it!". Remember, there will always be another flea market, garage or estate sale to replenish your supply of goodies, but you never know when the next creative moment will come along. Take advantage of the time, creative ideas, and supplies you already own and have a ball!

    As far as the technical side, the green and brass charm was created using thin gauge brass wire to hold it together, but the piece could also have been created using a soldering iron or in this case, even a torch if the gem in the middle of the button had been properly protected (not really something I feel skilled enough to tackle).

    Oh, one more bit of advice, if it falls apart you will know what not to do the next time. Practice practice practice. I love to go back and look at the first assemblage I made and see the progress to where I am today. It was NOT pretty! But it was a beginning.

    Thanks Lana and be sure to e-mail a picture when you create your first piece!!