Thursday, May 30, 2013

Caffeine Molecule Prototypes

I often don't show the numerous prototypes to my beading designs, mainly because they're usually, well, ugly. My prototypes are often missing several beads, contain loose threads, and look little like the final piece. However, I usually keep them around in a big jar, because sometimes I will come up with an idea but not get it to work, only to revisit it at a later time. I like having my previous attempts around so I can see and feel how the design didn't work as I had envisioned. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my caffeine beaded molecule was one of these ideas.

Beaded Caffeine Prototypes, Circa 2007

During a recent studio re-organization, I found some of the first caffeine molecules that I had ever beaded! These date back to sometime in 2007, before I started writing beading patterns.

As you can see, I had played around with the idea of using round beads to stabilize the rings of the molecule. The atoms were represented by an 8° seed bead, with the bonds represented by smaller seed beads. However, even with the round "core" beads, these were too floppy for my taste, and rather, well, inelegant.

(I was also into blue colorways, big time)

Snowflake-Style Caffeine Prototype

The key to the finished beaded caffeine molecule was realizing that it needed multiple, redundant thread paths, and multiple layers of beadwork. My snowflakes design was what led me to this idea, as I blogged about last December.

Using the snowflakes design as a guide, I whipped up this prototype using the geometry of a caffeine molecule:

As you can see, it looks much more like the final design, but with some snowflakes elements such as the 15° seed beads in the centers of the rings. Each atom branching off of the rings is slightly different, as I was experimenting with different ways of beading these branched atoms each time. By the time I finished the last branch, I came to a conclusion about the style that I wanted to use.

Finished Coffee Molecules

The finished design is a bit more streamlined, and works with several different kinds of flat molecules, not just caffeine!

The caveat to this style is that most molecules are much more dimensional, and therefore much more challenging to render accurately in beadwork. However, that's a subject for another day...

Do you keep the prototypes to your beading designs? Have you ever found a beading design many years later? Drop me a line in the comments and let me know!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

WIP Wednesday: More Tropical Dahlias, Starting Earrings

I've been working on a couple of different beading projects this week...

Even More Heliotrope Tropical Dahlias

I finished a total of nine heliotrope Tropical Dahlias! I'm nearly done with this project and I hope to have it photographed and ready to show soon. In the meantime, don't these sparkly beaded flowers look pretty all gathered together?

The Start of Matching Earrings

I also started to weave a pair of matching earrings for my Bead Dreams finalist piece, and I hope to have them done soon so that I can wear them to the Bead & Button Show next week. Here's a snapshot of the beads that I'll be using for these earrings.

My Bead Dreams finalist piece is in the same color palette, so keep an eye out for it in the display case at the show!

What are you working on this week?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Dopamine Molecule Earrings

On the heels of finishing my serotonin and dopamine necklace, I've continued this theme of beaded neurotransmitter molecules with a pair of matching earrings.

Dopamine Earrings

These earrings were woven using the same color palette as the necklace, and depict the skeletal chemical structure of the dopamine molecule. I attached the beaded molecules to the ear wires at the nitrogen atom.

For reference, here's one of the dopamine molecules that I used in the original necklace, along with its skeletal chemical structure:

A Smaller Variation

I scaled down the bead sizes in these earring versions of beaded dopamine, resulting in slightly smaller beaded molecules. They're about 3/4 of the size of the original beaded dopamine, as you can see in this photo:

I discuss how to scale down the bead sizes in my Morning Coffee Molecules pattern, where I show both the original and smaller sizes of the beaded caffeine molecule.

Left- and Right-Handed Earrings

Some molecules exist in both right- and left-handed forms, a concept in chemistry known as chirality. The most common example of a chiral molecule is an amino acid, which I'll discuss in detail at a later date. I previously discussed this general idea in beaded DNA, where I explained how most DNA is in the right-handed form (B-DNA), however it can exist in a rare left-handed form that looks quite different from the DNA structure that everyone is used to. This concept is sometimes lost graphic designers, and it's not uncommon to see a depiction of B-DNA incorrectly illustrated in the left-handed direction (as shown here, here, and here). Once you study it in detail, it gets to be a bit of a pet peeve (like how it takes an astrophysicist to notice that the globe in the opening of the Daily Show is actually spinning in the wrong direction).

But I digress...

Dopamine is not a chiral molecule, so you can take any two dopamine molecules, and after flipping them over and rotating them around, you'll find a way to superimpose them on top of each other. So when it comes to depicting dopamine in a skeletal chemical structure, you can draw it in several different ways, even in right- and left-handed orientations, and you're still depicting the same molecule.

Since I thought that one earring of each orientation would be more aesthetically pleasing when worn, this is how I depicted these dopamine molecules. I like how this method of creating beaded molecules satisfies both my aesthetic ideas as a jewelry designer, as well as my nitpicky science pet peeves :)

For more of the science behind beaded molecules, check out my serotonin and dopamine necklace, and my Morning Coffee Molecules pattern.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Kits Kits and More Kits!

I've been very busy putting kits together for the Bead & Button Show! I'll have several kits for sale at the Meet the Teachers reception on Wednesday, June 5. I'll be offering special discounts on kits for show attendees, so be sure to stop by my booth on the left side of the room. You can download the floor plan here!

I've also finished the kits for my classes, and my printer is busy printing away the class patterns.

I'm getting quite excited!

Are you going to the show? I'd love to see you there!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

WIP Wednesday: More Tropical Dahlias

Today on the Bead Origami blog, I'm posting some pictures of a current work-in-progress.

I've been meaning to try out a series of WIP Wednesday posts on this blog, but so far I haven't been able to make these kinds of posts consistently. This is due to a number of reasons, partially because I sometimes hesitate to show pictures of my messy bead tray, but also because I don't generally like to post a brand new project until it's complete. I probably won't be posting any full pictures of designs-in-progress that I'm not yet comfortable releasing, but I hope to at least show some sneak peaks of the current goings-on in my beading tray.

Heliotrope Tropical Dahlias

This week, I'm continuing with the idea that I mentioned the other day for a necklace made up of Tropical Dahlia pendants. So far I've completed three of these rizo bead pendants.

I bought some big fused sterling silver jump rings that I'm thinking of using to connect them together, but I'll decide for sure once I finish more of these beaded rivoli flowers. Until then, I've left their working threads untrimmed.

The more I work with these colors, the more that they're growing on me... Why did it take me this long to work with heliotrope rivolis?

What's on your beading tray?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

New Kits: Tropical Dahlia Set

New kits are now available for the Tropical Dahlia Set! The kits make both the beaded dahlia pendant, and the smaller matching earrings.

Colorway #1: Spring Blossom

The first colorway is in the very floral tones of cyclamen opal, pink, peach, and a nice sunny yellow. I've taken to wearing this one myself quite frequently!

Colorway #2: Tropical Oasis

The second colorway is in the cooler colors of fern green, teal, and deep amethyst.

Colorway #3: Desert Bloom

The last colorway is in various shades of copper and turquoise, and I think it looks like a flower that you might see blooming in the desert.

All three kits are available at, and include all the materials necessary to make the the pendant and the matching earrings. Plus shipping is included in the kit price!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Serotonin and Dopamine Necklace

I finished another project! This necklace features beaded representations of two important brain molecules; serotonin and dopamine.


Last month I wrote about serotonin, a molecule in the brain associated with happy feelings. I also blogged about the process I went through to create beaded serotonin, where I went through several different colorways before arriving at the one that I liked. I settled on a colorway of metallic gold and pink, with accents of purple and peach:


Like serotonin, dopamine is also a small neurotransmitter. It is the key neurotransmitter of the reward system of the brain, which produces feelings of pleasure after rewarding experiences such as a delicious meal, sex, music, or finishing a beautiful beading project! In fact, any kind of reward experience will increase dopamine levels in the brain. However, dopamine levels are also increased in response to drug use, and it's linked to other kinds of addictive behaviors. Its precise roles in these and other complicated neural responses is still an active area of scientific research (which is scientist-speak for "we're still learning more about it!")

Dopamine is made from the amino acid tyrosine, which has one six-carbon aromatic ring, as opposed to the two-ring indole group of serotonin. Two oxygen atoms are connected to the ring, along with a branch of two carbons with a nitrogen on the end. The resulting beaded dopamine molecule is slightly smaller than serotonin, but from a structural chemistry point of view, both are still described as small molecule neurotransmitters.

A Happy, Rewarding Necklace!

To create this piece, I wove several beaded serotonin and dopamine molecules using the principles that I describe in my Morning Coffee Molecules pattern. I then painted the backs of the beaded molecules with several coats of acrylic floor finish, which made the beadwork stiff and sturdy. Then I connected the molecules together with jump rings, and attached them to a clasp to complete this necklace.

For a little while, I wasn't sure if this necklace was done. I debated adding crystals or fringe to this piece on the jump rings between each molecule, but I didn't want to detract from the beaded molecules themselves. This piece also has so many shiny metallic beads that any additional beads will either recede or clash with the molecules, so I relented, and decided to let this piece stand as-is.

...But my next neurotransmitter necklace will have an abundance of crystals!

If you're interested in the beading techniques behind this piece, check out my Morning Coffee Molecules pattern, where you can learn how to create a beaded caffeine molecule!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Origami Interlude: Rafaelita

To catch up with my monthly series of Origami Interludes, this month I folded two pieces using a module designed by Lukasheva Ekaterina of

The Rafaelita Module

Both pieces were created using the Rafaelita Module, which is folded from a square piece of paper. I went total bling and used a textured gold foil paper for these modules, cut into 3" squares. Foil paper is a double-edged sword to work with; it makes very crisp, clear creases that are easy to see and manipulate. However, once a crease is made in foil paper, it's there for good, so it's much less forgiving of errant creases compared to more fibrous papers such as washi.

Here's what one individual Rafaelita Module looks like after it's folded:

The 12-Unit Kusudama

For the first completed kusudama, I wanted to test out the Rafaelita unit before folding all thirty pieces called for in the original pattern, so I folded and connected twelve Rafaelita modules together using the symmetry of a cube. I found the individual modules pretty straightforward to fold, but the joints were much tricker to do correctly than I had previously thought; the pockets have to be almost completely unfolded before the tabs can be inserted, and then additional creases are made in the tabs as they are enclosed by the pockets. However, no adhesives are needed to keep the finished Rafaelita constructions together. Here's what the 12-unit construction looks like:

It's slightly smaller than a baseball:

The 30-Unit Kusudama

Once I was comfortable with the 12-unit construction, I folded thirty Rafaelita Modules for the 30-unit construction. This kusudama uses the symmetry of the dodecahedron, and I really like how its shows a floral motif on each side. I also like how none of the white backside of the foil paper is visible in the completed construction.

The 30-unit construction is a bit larger than the baseball:

I think both pieces will make gorgeous Christmas ornaments!

Same Unit, Different Symmetries

I can't count the number of times that I've used this same process to explore a new origami module. First, I'll fold the individual module. Then, I'll try the 12-unit construction. Finally, once I'm comfortable with that, I'll move on to the 30-unit construction, and sometimes I'll try other combinations of units. As Ekaterina shows in the gallery of her website, this series can be extended to 60, 90, and even 120-unit pieces!

Have you noticed the same strategy in my beadwork?

A free diagram and how-to video for the Rafaelita Module is available at Check out some of my previous interludes into paper origami here.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Heliotrope Tropical Dahlia

Now that I've finished the beading projects that I needed to complete for the Bead & Button Show, I can switch gears and continue some projects that I've had sitting on the back burner for a while. First, I'm turning my attention back to the Tropical Dahlia Set.

As I previously mentioned, I think that a collection of these beaded flowers all strung together would make a nice necklace. I bought several heliotrope rivoli crystals with this idea in mind, only to find that these crystals are somewhat difficult to coordinate with other colors. They have the most gorgeous blue and purple hues, but I can't get them to work in the complementary color palettes that I'm used to using in this design, at least not with the rizos and drop beads that I have on hand. So I paired them with more subtle metallic blue rizo beads, silver drop beads, and blue shade crystals.

What do you think? Yay? Nay?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Cosmic Dodecahedron

Have you ever had an idea for a project, a project that you knew would be quite cool, but never seemed to find the time to sit down and build it? I've been thinking about weaving this beaded object for close to a year, but I knew it would take many hours of painstaking, fiddly beadwork, so I kept putting it off for another time. This past weekend, I finally sat down and put it together.

A Dodecahedral Variation

The result is a dodecahedral variation of my Cosmic Nocturne Pendant, and it is indeed as cool as I thought it would be! It's hollow and completely self-supporting, and surprisingly heavy for its size and lacy nature. It was also as fiddly as I thought it would be, as I had to perform several feats of Beading Needle Gymnastics to get the beads to go where they needed to go.

A Very Large Beaded Bead

This is easily the largest beaded bead that I've ever created. So much so that I'm learning towards using it as a Christmas ornament. Here it is next to the beaded bead that was previously my largest design, the Fiberoptic Dodecahedron:

And here it is next to a quarter:

It measures about 45 mm in diameter, which makes it slightly larger than a golf ball. I don't have a golf ball for comparison, but I do have a baseball. It's a little larger than half the diameter of a baseball, and with enough practice, you can get it to balance on top of a baseball:

And of course, my tiny paper cranes had to get in on the act too :)

Three Cosmic Symmetries

Together with the original Cosmic Nocturne Pendant and the Tetrahedral Variation, the Cosmic Dodecahedron variation completes the trio of these lacy beaded beads.

I'll be describing these variations in my Cosmic Nocturne Pendant class at the Bead & Button Show next month if you'd like to learn how to make your own!

The Cosmic Nocturne Pendant is just one of the projects that I'll be teaching at the Bead & Button Show this June. The class for this particular project is on Friday, June 7, from 1-4 PM. More information about the show can be found on their website.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Raindrop Flower Necklaces in Four Different Colorways

I finished the additional colorways for my Raindrop Flower Necklace class next month!

Lavender Glow

This version combines glowing lavender drop beads with a collection of dark purple, teal, and metallic matte seed beads for a nice variety of colors and textures. Also, petrol crystal pearls, which really seem to set off the lavender beaded beads.

Egyptian Queen

This version was a last-minute idea inspired by the color work of Margie Deeb. I love cobalt glass beads, but they can be quite challenging to pair with other colors. Margie's book reminded me that cobalt glass looks a lot like lapis, which pairs well with turquoise and hints of gold in a classic Egyptian color scheme.

Blue Ice

Finally, this version combines transparent, slightly icy blue teardrop beads with silver seed beads and tahitian-look crystal pearls for an elegant, cooler color palette. I'm quite proud of this particular photograph because I shot it using the manual mode on my camera, which I'm usually too timid to tackle, but I couldn't get it to look right on a black background with a single light source without adjusting the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture by hand. I think it came out rather well!

Here are all four necklaces hanging out together:

I'll be teaching how to make the Raindrop Flower Necklace on Thursday, June 6 at the upcoming Bead & Button Show. More information about Bead & Button class registration, as well as general show information can be found here. I'd love to see you there!

Which necklace is your favorite?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Origami Interlude: Larger Masu Boxes

I just realized that I missed an Origami Interlude for the month of April... Oops! Well I'm remedying that today with some origami boxes.

Masu Boxes

A while ago I blogged about the origami boxes that I hand-fold for the jewelry that I sell in my Etsy shop. The boxes are a variation on the Masu box, a traditional origami design that you can learn to fold yourself here. I fold mine from 6" squares of paper; washi for the top and card stock for the bottom, with both parts lined with card stock for extra stability. The finished box is about 2 inches wide by one inch tall:

This box is great for earrings, pendants, and beaded beads, but it's a little small for necklaces and even for some bracelets. I could use larger sheets of paper, but the resulting box would retain the same proportions of the original box (it would be wider, but it would also be deeper than 1"). I wanted a more traditional necklace-sized jewelry box that would be only one inch deep, but about 3-4 inches wide.

Larger Masu Boxes

To remedy this problem, I came up with another variation that results in a wider box with different proportions than the original Masu box. The trick to this variation is to both use a larger sheet of paper, but to also modify step 3 to fold the sides in only partway. With an 8" sheet of paper, and by folding the sides in only 1", I had a box that's still one inch deep, but about 3.75 inches wide:

Small vs. Large Boxes

Here's a photo of both the small and large Masu boxes in the same pretty purple Japanese crane washi print:

I like how the larger box not only solves the how-to-package-a-necklace question, but it also shows off more of the gorgeous prints that you can find in washi. I'm particularly fond of Japanese crane and cherry blossom prints.

Though, now that I think about it, this would also work well with Italian papers too... Hmm.....

Check out some of my previous interludes into paper origami here, here, here, here, herehere, and here.

What's your favorite kind or style of paper? Do you know of one that would look particularly nice in a Masu box? Drop me a line in the comments section!
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