September Design Challenge - Trees

For the month of September, my fellow Art Jewelry Elements teammate Caroline Dewison of Blueberri Beads selected the theme of "trees" for the quarterly challenge.

Trees are not only already a very inspirational theme due to the number of components I already owned having to do with trees, but it can also be taken in so many different directions. I love to take photos of trees. The one above is from Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio in May of 2015, not too far from where my son was in high school. 

Trees can be done literally, as in use a tree on a component or design. It can also be done at a more microscopic level: leaves, roots, bark are all very interesting and inspiring visually and texturally. Trees also serve as homes to all kinds of animals plants and fungi. 

I sometimes like to make acorn headpins and recently just traded several of them to other beadmakers

I wanted to make my own beads with trees for this challenge, however the small amount of torch time I had available this month was spent working on the component of the month for October, which I am hosting and will be introducing over on Art Jewelry Elements in a couple days. 

So after taking a look at what I have in my hoard stash of components, I settled on this very large polymer clay focal by Staci Louise Smith. It originally had 3 wire loops, but I cut and filed those off. Honestly I didn't have a real plan when I first started. I just picked out some sead beads that I thought coordinated well, glued the focal onto stiff stuff and packed it away in my beading pal to take with with me to England. Because this is the month I had to get my kid ready for and settled at his new university over in Newcastle, England. And since I was in the neighborhood (far north England, almost to Scotland), I stopped by (took an airplane) to visit AJE teammate Lesley Watt in the south (Caroline Dewison took a train from her part of the country and we made a weekend of it!). That is when I finally had some free time to start beading. 

This polymer clay cab is so large, it took FOREVER (an entire day) to bezel it. As I'm plodding along with my bezel, I think Lesley managed to finish about 3 smaller bead embroidery projects. According my my Garmin watch, I got a whopping 1,979 steps for the day. 

This was as far as I got in the beading because I wasn't exactly sure where I wanted to go from here. I got home from England at about 1am September 28th and was up by 6am the same day considering my options. 

I decided a jaunt to Michaels was the most important thing to do because I was thinking about framing it and possibly using painted fabric as the background. If I did that, I could easily make it so it could be detached from the frame and worn. So I took the cab for a ride (ignore all the coffee splashes. Wow! What a mess! And yes, I do keep a Sharpie in the car. You never know when you'll need it. The scissors are hiding in the center console...)

I didn't find exactly what I hoped to find, which was a shadow box type frame without glass. So I got one with glass except the glass doesn't come out. I found this out after I opened it. I also considered felt or plain cotton for painting on. 

But while I was at Michaels, I found this birch tree discs in various sizes. They would make a really cool mosaic effect. However, I think that might have to wait for a different project as I didn't really love it with Staci's component. 

What I decided on is a completely different direction. I found these really thin (birch?) sheets in 6"x12" size. I bought two and cut them in half and glued the halves together so they would feel stronger. I would have purchased something thicker to begin with, but they were too thick and there was nothing in between. 

So why would I do this? What does this have to do with anything I shared above? Because as I was wandering around Michaels (and I do mean wander as they've moved EVERYTHING since the last time I was there and I couldn't find anything easily), I was thinking about how I really want to make a handmade book/journal. Being polymer clay, Staci's component should be able to withstand the small amount of abuse it could potentially have to tolerate. 

So the plan after gluing the halves together and sitting them under books to dry, was to do a bit of stamping and painting, still allowing the grain to show through, but making them more interesting and warm them up a bit in color. 

However, the three hours of sleep I got the night before, coupled with being up for about 26 hours straight while traveling and then getting home to my huband, daughter, and pets, who required attention after 8 days of absence, my brain started going into meltdown mode yesterday afternoon and I couldn't manage to work on it any more before the reveal. However, I plan on finishing it by the end of the weekend and will update with photos. I'm actually super excited to see how it turns out. 

As this is a design challenge, there are several other people who participated who would love for you to visit their blogs, see what they've created, and receive comments about their work. Please take a look! 

AJE Team

Jennifer Stout Cameron <---- you are here already!

Lesley Watt

Jenny Davies-Reazor

Laney Mead

Niky Sayers

Cooky Schock

Cathy Spivey Mendola

Caroline Dewison



Brooke Bock

Karin Grosset Grange

Merja Sundström

Cindy Martin Shaw

Allison L Norfleet Bruenger

Kathy Lindemer

Gloria Allen

Shai Williams

Tammy Adams

Mona Arnott

Terri Del Signore



I love seeing how your ideas have developed. I'm amazed that you managed anything at all with all the travelling, but it's going to be amazing! Can't wait to see it finished!

Thank you for joining me in the challenge :)


Oh My! I can't believe your were able to accomplish anything at all after all your traveling. I love how your idea is progressing. The cab is beautiful and should definitely be highlighted. Can't wait to see what your plan morphs into!


Two unique finishing ideas!


I love hearing how you work through the process.... I Love Staci's beads...she was my inspiration in getting started with polymer clay. I love the journal idea and can't wait to see it when it is done....


Having seen this in the flesh I know this is going to be great and I love the direction you're taking it with the journal idea...Stick with it once you have life back on track - I think it will be worth it.

Niky sayers

Firstly I love the colours of seed beads you have chosen, then I really liked the idea of framing your piece but oh my I love the idea of a journal! Can't wait to see what it looks like finished!

Veralynne Malone

Amazing you had any brain cells to think after all the traveling! But love the pendant and the colors you started with...Can't wait til you finish it!

Gloria Allen Designs

I love your idea of decorating a Journal. I luv the Focal bead. Great post and I am so glad that I am not the only one where life sometimes gets in the way of our Art.


I love all of this. The acorns are great - but I am so glad you have your Muse riding shot gun on the trip to Michaels! Creative problem solving! I think it will be a great book cover! Coptic stitch would be perfect for it to open and lie flat....

Kathy Lindemer

I love the cab you are working with and I can't wait to see your finished project!

Laney Mead

You finished it yet :D Love the birch pieces. That cab is beautiful.

Melissa Trudinger

I'm looking forward to seeing the final creation -- and I love hearing about your design process.


I love reading about artists' creative process, from headpins to embroidery to journal, it is fascinating and I love what you make every step of the way.


Those acorn headpins are awesome. And I also carry a Sharpie marker in my car. The component you're working with from Staci is awesome and I look forward to seeing how the journal turns out.


What a story. And the story is true. :) You have done much more than many of us. So `rest in peace´ for a while. :D I´m sure this will be fine. I love your work, and the autumn colours of the pendant.

Cindy Martin-Shaw

Your post intrigued me instantly with your photo and the mention of the Lakewood Cemetary. I grew up in Cleveland and remember Lakewood well. I enjoyed your perspective of microscopic view. You made me laugh with your hoard/stash comment. :) Your acorn headpins are lovely! What exciting traveling adventures you are having. Your schedule exhausted me just reading about it. I smiled at your comment about wandering through Michaels; I know the feeling. Staci's focal is gorgeous, and I'm curious to see how your project turns out. What a fun read this was!

Terri Del Signore

Please do show when you complete this project!! Don't throw it in the UFO pile!! I love the idea!!

Shay Williams

I can't wait to see how this turns out. Be sure to show it off.


Wonderful design.
Love the color choice.
Can't wait to see the final piece.

Susan Kennedy

Love those headpins and can't wait to see the finished version! I ended up participating at the last minute:

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
To help us prevent spam, please prove you're human by typing the words you see here.