The Versatility of Vintaj

We know there’s no way to control the silver and gold market, but dang! Those metals sure are expensive these days. Of course, we still love using sterling silver and gold-filled beads and components, but we are finding that we’re needing to use these accents a bit more sparingly. Otherwise, we would have no money left for other beads!

Components we have grown to love as affordable (and hypo-allergenic) alternatives come from the Vintaj Natural Brass Company.  Vintaj components & chain are solid brass made up of 85% copper and 15% zinc and are not antique plated. All Vintaj materials are nickel-free and lead-free compliant, making them great for folks with sensitive skin. Plus, the folks at Vintaj have really done their research when it comes to replicating ornate, intricate, and gorgeous Art Nouveau-style jewelry components. Another nifty factoid: all of Vintaj’s brass components can be polished up, transforming the pieces from antique chocolate brown to gleaming gold. Vintaj pieces can be stamped, riveted, bent, curled, strung, wrapped, and used in other crafts, such as scrapbooking and sculpture.  Pictured below are just a few projects you can create using Vintaj components. The possibilities are limitless!

1.) Stamp phrases onto metal blanks using letter punches.
Our Metal Stamping class here at Blue Door Beads covers all of the tricks and techniques you need to know when it comes to making clear impressions on metal. Vintaj Altered Blanks are just a few of the components you can use while stamping, but they are definitely some of our favorites. They come in a wide range of sizes and shapes, including leaves, birds, and more, as well as the standard circles and squares. Create personalized pendants to give as gifts, or to keep for yourself!

2.) Add color using Vintaj Patinas.

Vintaj Patinas are specially designed acrylic paints that adhere to metal. These bright, vibrant paints are terrific for when you want to add that perfect pop of color to your jewelry. Vintaj Patinas can be mixed together, painted on, sponged on, or dabbed on in a variety of ways. We have a rainbow of colors available here at Blue Door Beads, so come check ’em out!

3.) Encase beads, cabochons and other items in Vintaj filigree wraps.
These cool components are beautiful on their own, but they are also wonderful components for wrapping around large pendants or beads, especially ones that possess a flaw or crack that you would like to hide. Use round nose or bail-making pliers to bend the entire filigree, or just a portion. Attach chain, charms, or whatever else you’d like.

4.) Rivet bead caps, charms, and other items to Altered Blank Canvases.
These large-scale altered blanks are great for creating wall-hangings, ornaments, journal covers, and other fun & funky non-jewelry items. Punch holes in a canvas using metal hole-punching pliers, then grab a hammer, a bench block or anvil, some Vintaj rivets, and start riveting your little heart out!

For more on how to work with the Vintaj line, including patinas, rivets, filigree wraps, etc., visit Vintaj’s blog. Their videos and written how-to’s are so helpful and inspiring, we’re sure you’ll want to start working with Vintaj ASAP. When you’re ready, come to the shop, and we’ll get you started. 🙂 Bead boldly!

Photo of stamped pendants courtesy of Lydia Chapman for Blue Door Beads.
Photos of “Weathered in Nature” necklace, “Festive Mulberry” necklace, and “Family Journal” courtesy of


Fly Away Home

One of our favorite things about summertime is the cluster of birds that chirp and flutter in the bushes in our store parking lot, greeting us every morning when we come to work. We have a wonderful variety of birds here in Oakland, California, including finches, mourning doves, bluejays, hummingbirds, and (our personal favorite) chickadees!

Too cute!

Their happy chattering and boundless energy make them a pleasure to watch, to the point where we almost wish our back parking lot was the front of our store, so that we could watch them all day! But we don’t mind waiting for our lunch breaks to step outside to watch them build their nests, call to one another, and swoop around in the sky.

We wanted to pay homage to our feathered friends, as well as the other winged creatures that flutter around our neighborhood, by showing you all of the fun bird, dragonfly, and butterfly beads & pendants we have in the shop. We also have classes and workshops coming up where you can create your own piece of flying-creature-inspired jewelry!

Vintaj never ceases to disappoint us! It seems there are always coming out with darling new bird & butterfly pendants and components. Choose from warm, brown nickel-free brass elements (that can be polished up to be really shiny!), or the slightly darker iron-based charms, also nickel-free.

We created the necklace pictured below using one of Vintaj’s “Songbird” altered blanks and embossed it using the Sizzix DecoEmboss Die in Cherry Blossom Garden. Swing by the shop to have us show you how to use the special edition Vintaj Sizzix BigKick embossing & etching machine. Caution: this technique is highly addicitive! As for the bird’s nest: we will soon be featuring a workshop where folks can drop in to the shop to learn how to create this darling little nest. Mix & match beads for multi-colored eggs that are great for pendants, as well as earrings!

Also flying around the shop: this unique variety of winged pendants and charms! We love the organic look of the carved bone and jade pendants, the shimmer of the mother-of-pearl butterflies (the tan one and orange one), and the cutie-pie dragonfly connector & sterling bird charm!

Create your own adorable butterfly pendant like the one pictured below in our Faux Cloisonné class happening this Sunday, August 26th! Learn to make polymer clay look like classic cloisonné…super cool! Call the shop at 510.652.2583 for more details.

And for those who would like to wear a fabulous piece of jewelry right out the door, we also have necklaces featuring a feathered friend or two. The necklace below features a polymer clay focal bead created by local artist and instructor, Debbie Anderson. Debbie will be teaching the Faux Cloisonné class — learn all about polymer clay from a pro!

In closing, we would like to wish you happy beading and share with you this quote from Victor Hugo: “Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, still she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings.”

We Love Lillypilly!

We love unique, bold pendants, but it always seems that the bigger the pendant, the heavier it is. We don’t know about you, but we don’t really like big, bulbous baubles weighing us down throughout our day, which is why we love the lightweight line from Lillypilly Designs!

Owner Heidi Viau has been using a CO2 laser to intricately engrave nature-inspired designs onto various natural materials since 2003. Lillypilly is well-known for their gorgeous shell pendants (pictured at left), as well as their gorgeous designs on semi-precious stones, tagua nuts, wood, horn, and buri seeds.

The newest line from Lillypilly is a series of anodized aluminum sheets and shapes in bold, playful, and beautiful designs in vibrant colors (picture at right). Punch holes in the shapes with metal punch pliers to create charms, pendants, links & more!

Zees arr sum uv zee most beeyooteefool peecez we av evar seen! What was all that gibberish, you ask? Read it again with a French accent! We’re trying to get in touch with our French side in honor of Bastille Day (France’s Independence Day) this Saturday, July 14th.  Why not throw a festive fête, break out un peu de fromage et une bouteille du vin (a bit of cheese and a bottle of wine) and have yourself an extra-fancy Bastille Day beading session? Très chic. 🙂 Happy Bastille Day from Les Perles de La Porte Bleue (Blue Door Beads)!

Emboss Your Heart Out!

We have been busy busy busy playing with our newest toy: the Sizzix BIGkick Machine by Vintaj.

A multi-purpose machine, The BIGkick Machine cuts, embosses and etches many different designs onto metal blanks, while customizing almost endless combinations of creations. We have been experimenting with different embossing patterns, and we’ve been cranking out projects like crazy! Check out the fun creations pictured below.

Embossed Amethyst EarringsEmbossed Green Necklace

The Vintaj nickel-free brass circle centerpiece of the necklace (left) was embossed using the Vintaj “Distressed Textures” embossing die from Sizzix, then embellished with Vintaj Patina in Moss Green. We love this vibrant, lush green hue! The circles used in the earrings (right) were also embossed using the “Distressed Textures” embossing die. We then added a couple of amethyst teardrops, resulting in this great pair of earrings!

See the BIGkick in action next Thursday, June 21st! We will be hosting a demo of the BIGkick Thursday evening during the Piedmont Art Walk from 6pm to 9pm. Come in to the shop any time after 6pm & we will demonstrate the steps for you to create textured pendants and charms. We’ll also gladly demonstrate how to apply Vintaj Patinas, opaque inks specially formulated to adhere to metal. Hooray for instant gratification!

Vintaj Patinas in Weathered Copper.