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Pearls of wisdom

Surely one of the most popular embellishments for card makers – pearls manage to be pretty and elegant without being overly showy, classy rather than brash I always think! Of course, the pearls we use are synthetic, but a real natural pearl is a thing of extraordinary beauty.

If you have been to see Mama Mia II (like me!!), you will know there’s a scene where a young suitor opens an oyster for his beloved (no names, no plot spoilers!) and there just happens to be a great big pearl nestling in it! In reality, finding a pearl in an oyster is very rare… but in fiction, of course, anything can happen!

So what is a natural pearl? I always think it is incredible how they are produced… Pearls are made when a small object, such as a grain of sand, is washed into a mollusc. As a defence mechanism to an irritant inside its shell, the mollusc creates a substance called nacre (mother of pearl). Layer upon layer of nacre, coat the grain of sand until the iridescent gem is formed. The ideal pearl is perfectly round and smooth, but many other shapes, known as ‘baroque’ pearls, can occur. The finest quality natural pearls have been highly valued as gemstones and objects of beauty for many centuries. Because of this, ‘pearl’ has become a metaphor for something rare, fine, and valuable.

The most valuable pearls occur spontaneously in the wild, but are extremely rare, which is why they command such high prices. These wild pearls are referred to as ‘natural’ pearls. Cultured or farmed pearls from pearl oysters and freshwater mussels make up the vast majority of those sold. Imitation pearls are also widely sold in inexpensive jewellery – I think most of us of a ‘certain age’ probably own a string, but their iridescence is poor compared to genuine pearls.

Pearls are cultivated primarily for use in jewellery, but, in the past were also used to adorn clothing – think of the Elizabethans and their bodices encrusted with pearls. They are also been crushed and used in cosmetics, medicines and paint formulations.

Whether wild or cultured, gem-quality pearls are almost always pearlescent and iridescent, like the interior of the shell that produces them… hence the rather lovely term ‘mother of pearl’ as found inside the mollusc’s shell.

Cultured pearls are formed in pearl farms, using human intervention as well as natural processes. As with natural pearls, the initial formation of cultured pearls is the response of the shell to an ‘irritant’ – a tissue implant. A tiny piece of tissue (from a donor shell is transplanted into a recipient shell, causing a pearl sac to form into which the pearls structure starts to form. There are a number of methods for producing cultured pearls and one is by adding a spherical bead as a nucleus and most saltwater
cultured pearls are grown in this way.

So what makes pearls so beautiful? The unique lustre of pearls depends upon the reflection, refraction, and diffraction of light from the pearl’s translucent layers – the thinner and more numerous the layers in the pearl, the finer the lustre. So it’s the overlapping of successive layers causes the iridescence that pearls display. So now you know!

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A very special anniversary – or wedding!

There are some special occasions we celebrate that are perhaps just a little more special than an annual event like a birthday – and this card for a silver wedding celebration is simply out of this world! It’s OK I’m not patting myself on the back – this was made for us by Suzanne Saltwell.

Basically, there is the main card front – and just that as a card would be wonderful and special, whether for a wedding day or 25 years later. Then inside there’s a printed message saying the gift is two theatre tickets (fantastic idea – yes please!) and on the other side a more general message and a verse.

The detail on these inside pieces and the front is all gorgeous. Before you think “Nah too fiddly for me,” it’s not as hard as it looks, thanks to great dies and lovely papers.

The backing paper (isn’t it fantastic?) is from our latest Volume 5 backing papers. This gives the most wonderful dreamy look to the project for starters and then the clever combination of colours in the bouquets completes the feel of the card. The die used is our recently released Signature die ‘Vase of Flowers’.

If you are looking at the pictures thinking, “I wish I had more help!” – then help is at hand! If you send me your email address then I will ask Suzanne to chat with you and explain the details. Email me at joanna@joannasheen.com

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Buttons, buttons and more buttons…

My memories of my grandmother and mother are of two very resourceful women that used and reused everything. Recycling is so ‘trendy’ now but honestly, it’s nothing new, is it? Can anyone else remember Christmas or birthday present being unwrapped carefully and the paper being whizzed away by an adult as they ironed it and reused it on another occasion?

Buttons and zips were another part of unwanted clothing that would never have been wasted, Granny had a sewing treasure trove with pre-loved (another trendy word) zips, hooks and eyes, buttons and the old favourite… school name tapes. There had to be an economy there too. The eldest child had a full name tape with both Christian name and surname, second child had new but with the Christian name cut off so just the surname was used and then poor old third child had just the surname carefully unpicked from older sibling’s clothing, so even less in the way of borders at each end. I was the eldest by the way so – ha ha ha – I got first and last names!

I would love to say that I am currently just as thrifty and take care of all the treasures handed down to me – but I’m sorry I don’t. Replace a zip …. Nope …. Sew on a button yes, maybe, but recycle hooks and eyes? Not on your nelly.

However, I have found a very happy use for some of the treasures – I add them as embellishments to cards.  Whether you like making vintage style (me, me!) cards or prefer a more contemporary slant to your creativity – buttons can still make great additions. Bright primary coloured plain buttons look fun on modern style cards – and the smaller pearly buttons look great on a vintage card – so keep saving and keep recycling, even if it is in 21stcentury style!

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Barbara Anderson flowers to bring a smile!

There’s nothing like a beautiful bunch of flowers to bring a smile to my face! Having said that, there are plenty of times when physical flowers are not an option. I know you can send flowers anywhere these days, but it does involve quite a bit of money and, sometimes, all you want to do is cheer someone up, or say ‘thank you’, or a million other reasons.

These cards can deliver beautiful flowers for you, although only 2D, not 3D, they are still gorgeous! The artist is Barbara Anderson. Barb is American and uses vintage floral images which she tweaks and twists and adds original little extras as varied as birds to calligraphy or teacups to wheelbarrows!

I only discovered Barb last year and I have really enjoyed working with her designs. We have two pads available, Collection One and Collection Two, and both pads give you 24 sheets to make cards, and almost everything you need is on that sheet. Just add blank cards, some of your time and a dab of glue!

I love using anything vintage – I define vintage as anything older than me – it makes me feel better! You can see here on the centre card I have added pearly buttons from my button box, which has inhabitants that have been there for generations. It was my grandmother’s box first, then my mother took it on and now I have it in my craft room. I must admit I rarely use the buttons on clothing – I add them to other craft projects because I think they are just so pretty.

So looking at all three cards, you can see that apart from a little extra cardstock and a blank card, these pads really do give you lots to work with and the results are pretty good I reckon.

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My favourite Thomas Kinkade cards

We make gadzillions of cards through the year. Some are destined to be samples or demos for Create and Craft, some are just for family and friends. But these two cards are among my favourites and I have kept them carefully for months now. You know what it’s like when you have cards that should go somewhere or be for a particular someone and you think, no, I’ll keep those for now… and then never give them away!

Thomas Kinkade images are easy to use as the cottages are gentle and rural, pretty and easy to match colour-wise. The die used here is our Signature die Wild Rose (completely biased now) – and it is one of our best sellers of all time. I just LOVE it.

My personal choice is to die cut in white and then colour with Promarkers, or you can use any colouring medium that you prefer. You can add pearls, or not add pearls, ring the changes and it makes any card look fabulous with very limited effort!

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