Sky Blue Designs began in 2003 when I started working as a waitress at Chili's Bar & Grill at Santana Row in San Jose, CA. I wanted to wear something fun that projected the image of a true ChiliHead, so I made some chili pepper earrings. Later a necklace followed. Then a co-worker asked if I would make her a pair of chili pepper earrings, another co-worker wanted dolphins, and a third wanted dachshunds.
As Christmas came around, I decided to make jewelry as gifts for my friends and family. A couple pairs of earrings and bracelets quickly turned into an obsession as I canvassed all the local bead stores for more and more beads and embarked upon a slight eBay addiction. Now I have Peruvian ceramic animals and Czech glass beads that can be combined into nearly anything imaginable.
All Sky Blue Designs earrings are made with surgical steel ear wires unless otherwise noted. Exceptions include some Swarovski™ and freshwater pearl earrings, which may be made with sterling silver or gold filled ear wires. All other components (jump rings, head pins, clasps, chain tabs, etc.) are base metal or gold/silver plated unless otherwise noted. All necklaces are strung with SoftFlex® beading wire. All bracelets are strung with Stretch Magic® stretchy jewelry cord.
The ceramic beads featured in our Teeny Tiny line come from a family-owned company near Cusco, Peru. The Romeros employ over 40 people who have created these miniature works of art by hand for more than 10 years.
The following excerpt appeared in the April 2002 issue of Bead and Button Magazine: "Bead production starts in the hands of the designers, who sculpt the original animal shapes in clay. Factory workers make production molds from the originals, then press soft clay into the molds to make multiple copies of each piece. To remove an animal from its mold, workers use a metal rod that also creates the hole in the bead. The beads are bisque-fired (a relatively low temperature process) in the electric kilns that the Romeros built themselves, then partially glazed to give some areas of each animal a glossy finish. After another firing, artisans give the animals character and appeal with details added in matte-finish paints. Several thousand beads are produced in each batch, which takes about three days to complete."
Czech glass beads are made in the Liberec region of the Czech Republic, formerly part of Czechoslovakia. Glass has been made in Bohemia and central Europe for centuries and gained widespread popularity after the fall of Communism in the late 1980s and early 1990s. All Czech glass beads start as pressed beads where glass rods are melted and pressed between two halves of a mold. They are then tumbled to remove excess material, washed, and temporarily strung on cotton or plastic cord until they are ready to be used. Fire polished beads start as pressed beads that are placed in a machine with spinning wheels that grind down the bead in a faceted pattern. They exit the machine with a slightly matte finish, so they must travel through a kiln to slightly melt the glass and create the sparkly finish. Table cut beads also start as pressed beads but are then placed on a spinning table to grind the sides flat and then take an extra trip through a kiln for a smooth finish.
All beads may be finished with one of several coatings. The beads are placed in a kiln, and fumes from metals adhere to the bead producing a variety of shiny finishes. AB is an iridescent, bluish-pink color, marea is orange-yellow, and vitrail is a rainbow of pinks and greens. Luster is a transparent coating usually applied over clear or jet (black) beads that results in a glossy finish. The hematite color is achieved by coating a jet bead with a clear luster finish. Picasso is a mottled luster finish that appears spotty and has a different color depending on the color of the original bead.
Swarovski™, SoftFlex®, and Stretch Magic® are registered trademarks of their respective companies.