Beaded Beads New Work and Old Favorites

Anyone who knows me well knows that when I get obsessed with something crafty,  I sleep, eat and dream it until I get it out of my system.    I have gone through beaded bead obsessions before and am experiencing my latest one.  The beads I am making now are an unplanned, free form peyote and I am trying four, three, two drop and standard versions as I stitch my way around the beads.  I am using Japanese beads: Delicas, Miyuki 11/0 seed beads and some size 15/0, and some old round Japanese seed beads my friend Dorothy gave me a few years ago.     I am finding inspiration in the work of  Gustav Klimt.

New Work

The round  bead on the left is about 25mm

 Older Work

Beaded Beads

triple drop peyote

Double Peyote Bracelet Embellished Detail 4

example of beaded bead used in closure

Beaded Bead Sampler necklace

Sampler using peyote, netting, right angle weave and brick stitch.  The spacers are Nikia Angel’s Sparkley Wheels.

A great source of wooden  beads, ovals and rounds,  size small to huge is  Craftparts.  Finally, check out  Amy Karash fine bead work  I have adored her work for years.

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The Glass of Murano and Venice

I have always loved beads. Like fire, beads hold a primal fascination. They are part of every society and culture. There is evidence that humankind could have been making beads 100,000 years ago.

The Venetian City State became a major trading hub and a center of glass manufacturing in the 1300’s and the  earliest Venetian beads are thought to date from this time. Most of the glass work was done then and now on the little island of Murano just a short boat ride from Venice. The Venetian government moved glass production to Murano in to protect the City of Venice fire which was a constant danger in medieval towns where most of the buildings were constructed of straw and wood.

I was fortunate to be able to travel to Venice for the winter holiday this year. And because I love glass and beads, I had to go to Murano.

Murano is where the African Trading beads that I have collected since I was a teenager were made for colonial trade in Africa. The lovely, worn trading beads you are likely to find  today did not start out looking that way.  The beads really were used in trade and acquired a worn, matte finish from years of use much like coins.
It was fascinating to look at old sample cards of millefiori beads at the Murano Glass Museum. The beads looked shiny and new only because they sat in showrooms for decades and were only used as samples.  If you go to Venice,  be sure to make a trip to the Murano Glass Museum. 

I had always heard that you could go into the glass factories and watch items being made.
A friendly store proprietor from a glass making family (and glass manufacturing and bead making seems to be a family endeavor) 
set me straight  about these tours.  He said that  the lamp workers and blowers did not like to have  people around while they worked (I can understand why) and that the demonstrations  you will see on Murano  were cursory and rehearsed, and not illustrative of the way they really worked.  

Since I’ve seem a lot of real glass making of real glass and do lamp work myself,  I decided to skip the demonstrations and drool at the glass instead. Here are some pictures.

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There’s even more!  The Ercole Moretti website is a treasure trove of information and eye candy.  They published a history of  their company and Venetian glass and I am having a lot of fun reading it.

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William Blake’s Favorite Chocolate Death Dessert?

I think William Blake nailed it when he wrote “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom… You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough. Blake was the sort of man who would have liked Maxwell’s Hockey Puck Birthday Cake. It’s the kind of dessert you eat on the road of excess and you will definitely know when you have eaten too much. I can see Blake now, sharing it with Mrs. Blake on those occasions when they relaxed naked in their back yard after a hard day of poetry writing and print pressing. But I digress. I decided to create a new dessert for my stepson Maxwell’s fifteenth birthday. As a wicked stepmother, I firmly believed that Maxwell was in serious need of wisdom. His father and I didn’t know any ancient wisdom initiation rituals. (You can’t find a decent mountain or eagle feather in Philadelphia anyway.) We had already done the therapist thing but that only meant that the hapless lad would suffer from our mistakes instead of our parents’ mistakes. Besides, the only really useful tip my mother ever gave me was never to slap a man who chews tobacco. (I think Max already knew that.) I was going to write that this is the point where I thought of William Blake, the road of excess, and the Hockey Puck cake. I sadly admit it’s not true. I merely decided to indulge Maxwell’s voracious sweet tooth with a dessert that combined several of his favorite desserts into one. Let’s see-there was his mother’s brownies (high on my list too), his grandmother’s Jello cake, (technically stained glass cakefor the graham cracker crust. (Jello is a poor excuse for a dessert.) Max loved chocolate in its many forms including fudge and toffee (but no nuts because Max didn’t like them. ) I included marshmallow crème for something white. My mother shrieked when I told her my plan, “You’re gonna give that boy sugar diabeetees!” “I hope not,” I worried. At least not until he’s on his own medical insurance. I made the first Hockey Puck (recipe follows) cake and my husband and I each had a sliver. Maxwell and a friend each downed two large wedges after scarfing down spaghetti and meatballs. (Which they washed down with Jolt Cola  laced with saccharin.) My husband and I laid prostrate on the sofa helpless to stop them, listening to our hearts beat like jack hammers. We did achieve a measure of wisdom that night. The teenage boys? Not so much.  20+ years later,  I am happy to say that Max has apparently learned restraint because he does not have diabetes.  Which is good for him because he has two little boys and children try to travel the road of excess as often as it takes to make their parents crazy. And why is the cake called Hockey Puck? When I first made it, my husband took one look and remarked that it looked like a hockey puck with a thyroid condition.

Maxwell’s Hockey Puck Birthday Cake

  • One two-layer fudge cake (recipe follows)
  • One box graham crackers
  • One 14 oz jar marshmallow crème
  • Fudge sauce (recipe follows) or 10 oz jar
  • One recipe chocolate ganache (Recipe follows)
  • Toffee (recipe follows) or 1 lb Heath Bars chopped

I started with a recipe for a fudge brownie cake. You can use a mix, but Max got a cake made from scratch. Here’s a good recipe that has the lightness of a chiffon cake with that brownie flavor Fudge Cake

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3/4-cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 2/3 cups flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1-tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 1/8 cups cocoa powder

Butter and flour three 9-inch cake pans and line them with waxed paper. The waxed paper is important because the cake sticks to the pan. Mix the sugar and oil and slowly stir in the cocoa. Blend in the eggs with a mixer. Blend in the milk and vanilla into this mixture. Sift the dry ingredients into a separate bowl and add alternately with the milk to the sugar-oil-egg mixture while beating at a slow speed. Go slowly and make sure you are incorporating all the ingredients. Remember to scrape the sides and the button of the mixing bowl. Pour into the cake pans and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the pans and let them cool. Peel off the waxed paper. You can freeze one layer because you will only use two. Toffee

  • 2 cups butter
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Combine butter and sugar in a heavy sauce pan. Clip a candy thermometer to the pan. Cook over medium flame stirring occasionally, until the mixture starts to boil. Remove from stove when the temperature reached 285°F and stir in the baking soda and vanilla. Pour onto a shallow pan lined with waxed paper and sprinkle the chocolate chips on the top. No need to melt them beforehand; they will melt on the hot toffee. Spread them over the entire surface and sprinkle with the nuts, if you are not making Hockey Puck for Max. Break into pieces when cool. Store in tightly covered container. TIP: add a teaspoon of molasses if you like brown sugar in your toffee. I never buy brown sugar; I keep molasses and add a bit of it to white sugar instead. A bit of molasses is also good in the fudge sauce (recipe below). Chocolate Ganache 

  • 16 oz chocolate chips
  • 1 ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Pour the cream into a microwave safe bowl and heat for one minute on high. Add the chips and stir. If the chips do not melt, heat in 30 second intervals on high until both ingredients are incorporated. Stir in vanilla and let cool. If the ganache gets too hard to spread, heat it in the microwave until spreadable. Chocolate Fudge Sauce

  • 2 c. sugar
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 stick butter

Combine ingredients in a saucepan and heat slowly until it starts to boil. Boil mixture for one minute and remove from stove. Let it cool for about 5 minutes before pouring it over the cake. If it hardens, heat in microwave.

Assembling Your Hockey Puck

Spread with one third cup of the marshmallow crème, cover with graham crackers breaking them to fit. Cover this with one third of the chocolate ganache. Place on the next layer cut side down and repeat with the remaining layers and filling ingredients. You can use less of the filling if you wish. Cover the top of the cake with foil or plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 hours. Use the freezer if you are in a hurry. After removing the cake from the freezer, remove the sides of the spring form pan and place the cake on a serving dish. You can surround the cake with strips of waxed paper to keep things neat.
The next step is to pour the fudge sauce over the top of the cake, covering it and letting it run down the sides, spreading it to fill in as best you can. It won’t look real neat, but that is the nature of the Hockey Puck. Crumble the toffee and sprinkle liberally on the top of the cake. Press into the sides. Cover the cake loosely and refrigerate. If you have used strips of waxed paper on the plate, remove them before serving.  Eat slowly, savor and enjoy!

Plumpton reviews the recipe before I kick him out of the kitchen
Plumpton reviewing the recipe before I kicked him out of the kitchen.

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