Inside the Studio with Michelle McCarthy of Firefly Design Studio

Each week one of our contributors gives you a sneak peek into their studio, creative process or inspirations. We ask a related question of our readers and hope you’ll leave comments! As an incentive, we offer a prize each week to encourage you to use that keyboard and tell us what you think. The following week a winner is chosen at random from all eligible entries. And here are the results from last week!

Congratulations to #6 – Susan Marling!  You have won a surprise package of wonderful beads from Mary Harding.  Please contact Mary to claim your prize.
My ceramic bead studio has been in high production mode for some time now.  The second half of December through the end of January was all about creating beads, pendants, buttons and cabochons for Cherry Tree Beads to take to Tucson with them.  They already represent my line on their wholesale website, so I was really excited for them to take them to the To Bead True Blue Show with them.  They should of arrived home from the show a day ago, so I haven’t found out how it went, but hopefully many of my beads found new homes!
Every January and July I redesign my bead show trays.  I have had a lot of fun doing that this past month.  I pretty much split things up into sea life themes, nature themes, spacer beads, cabochons, earring pairs, bracelet toppers and my new sets.  Sets will be a focal pendant, bracelet topper or earring pair with matched up accent beads.
When I produce, I pile up the beads that I want to be a certain glaze color.  I place them on skewers so my hands stay away from the paint and place them in a wood holder to dry.
After they dry, I take a wet pipe cleaner and run that through all the holes or wire loops.  This helps prevent them from sticking to the bead trees while firing.  My last load is cooling in the kiln right now. I have my first bead show of the year this weekend in Pompano Beach, Florida.
Here is a kiln load still warm….
So I can fit quite a few beads in my kiln.  This load is white earthenware with cone 06 glazes which is a firing temperature of 1,855 degrees.  My kiln is digital and I usually fire on the fast schedule, which completes the cycle in a little under 4 hours.  But then I have to be patient during cooling.  It is another 8 hours later that I can open my kiln, which is around 150 degrees.  
I hope you have enjoyed reading a bit about my bead show production.  Now for my question…….
Since sets are a new product for me, I’d like some jewelry designer input.  Besides the focal, how many side beads would you like in a set?  All ceramic or a combination of materials?  I definitely don’t want to take my set idea to a kit level Lol.  Please leave a comment below and a winner will be chosen by random number generator next week.  The lucky winner will receive one of my new sets!

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16 Comment

  1. Reply
    February 12, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    beautiful beads. thanks for sharing your bead show production.
    as to your question I think four would be a good number in ceramic

  2. Reply
    February 12, 2016 at 7:24 pm

    A set I think should have a focal and anywhere from 4-7 beads depending on their size and complexity. All ceramic or a combination would be great, depending on the look you're going for. Ceramic with some glass beads or vice versa would be pretty.

    I do believe I spotted a paisley in your pile. <3

  3. Reply
    February 13, 2016 at 3:30 am

    Hi, Michelle. I would go with 2 or 4 side beads, all ceramic unless you also make other beads. That way the person can accent their creation with other beads, or not, whatever strikes them. As a bead maker, you want the purchaser to focus on your work and not on some other ingredient you may offer. Let your sets shine!


  4. Reply
    Here Bead Dragons
    February 13, 2016 at 5:15 am

    I'd say between 8-12 side beads of which at least 6 are ceramic. Love the colors you use, the blue is fantastic.

  5. Reply
    Julie Bray
    February 13, 2016 at 7:13 am

    OMG….THAT BLUE FISH!!! I love a koi fish motif. Your focals are awesome, wish I could get to a bead show where you are.
    I think selling a focal with some accent beads would be fantastic. I would guess about 7? I think all ceramic would be fine as everyone seems to have their own preference when creating.
    Gorgeous work! Good luck at your upcoming shows….

  6. Reply
    February 13, 2016 at 10:04 am

    Hi, in my opinion a set is best to contain 4-6 beads apart from the focal.
    Thank you, your work is lovely!
    Despina Veneti

  7. Reply
    Kathy Lindemer
    February 13, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    I like 2 because I like to add my bead and metal stash to the mix. I am also interested in keeping my costs down.

  8. Reply
    Ema Kilroy
    February 13, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    Thanks for sharing your process. I love to see how artists work. Your beads are beautiful. When designing with sets I like a minimum of 4 accent beads. In my opinion 6 accent beads is ideal. This allows a designer the chance to create a necklace or bracelet with some of the beads and leaves a couple of beads left for a pair of earrings.

  9. Reply
    Sarajo Wentling
    February 13, 2016 at 3:34 pm

    I so loved digging through all your trays (and meeting you in person!) at BeadFest last summer! For sets, I'd keep them all ceramic unless you are making other types of beads… otherwise you are getting into kit territory, which is fine, but a different animal altogether. I'd say for earring sets the earring charms/focals plus 2 more beads (more than that would be a BIG earring!); bracelets = focal plus 4; necklaces = focal plus 4-6 beads… but that's just me. 😉 Good luck figuring it out and have fun!

  10. Reply
    February 14, 2016 at 2:19 am

    I agree with Kristina a focal with 4-7 side beads. Mixed materials that are complementary is also a plus. I always think that making a pendant should often come with earrings or a bracelet, but the items can stand on their own as well.

    Good luck all.

  11. Reply
    February 14, 2016 at 11:24 am

    I love hearing about how you beadmakers come up with processes for production, it's fascinating! Personally I think 4-6 accent beads with a focal, but for earrings, just a pair of accent beads to go with the charm.

  12. Reply
    gloria allen
    February 14, 2016 at 11:48 pm

    I think a Focal and four beads 2 with matching patterns from focal and two solid colors. Thanks for asking

  13. Reply
    February 15, 2016 at 1:46 am

    Your beads look great, I think 4-8 accent beads are nice plus a focal.

  14. Reply
    February 15, 2016 at 10:17 pm

    I like to see a focal with 4-6 contrasting smaller ceramic beads. Then I can use beads from my own stash to create a design. I love your beads, the colors are wonderful!

  15. Reply
    Janea aka Naya
    February 16, 2016 at 9:01 pm

    I purchased a wonderful Starfish Pendant of yours from Cherry Hill Beads this year at the show! It paired beautifully with some of the stones they were selling. Beautiful work and Thank You for the special pendant.

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