Bead caps give added interest and an air of professionalism to your designs. Helen Bowen is a big fan of these stylish findings so we asked her to share her tips.
Hello from Helen
If you've seen any of my work, you'll know how fond I am of using jewellery components in unconventional ways.
Getting creative with findings in particular keeps my jewellery unique and, more importantly, it stops me getting bored!
Making it up as you go
In the kitchen, I've never been one to follow a recipe despite a shelf full of cookery books.
Instead, I will come up with some new concoction based on the contents of my fridge and this approach seems to work just as well when designing jewellery.
In my creative world, there is never a concrete design, more an idea in my head and the intention to try something new.
So whilst some things turn out just great (like my cranberry and white chocolate muffins at Christmas), other things find themselves relegated to the dog's bowl or, in the case of jewellery, the rework box!
The versatile bead cap
One of the most versatile components in my findings stash is the trusty bead cap. Bead caps come in many shapes, sizes and metal finishes and have many uses either just as they are or with a bit of gentle bending and hammering.
Let's begin with some helpful tips on using bead caps as they were intended.
As nature intended
Bead caps (sometimes referred to as bell caps) can be used practically to prevent headpins from sliding straight through beads with larger holes or to cover the gaps left visible when threading these beads.
Spacer beads can be used to do this job but bead caps offer a space saving alternative and are useful for hiding any small imperfections around the holes.
Every which way
Bead caps can be used to enhance a bead or add detail or texture to a design. You can put a bead cap at either end or just one end. There are no hard and fast rules about what size bead caps to use with what size bead.
It all depends on the shape of the bead cap, the shape of the bead and the effect you want to achieve. Experiment a little and you'll find some interesting combinations.
Oversized bead caps can be wonderful for representing elements of nature. I've made blackberries, strawberries, acorns, pine cones and flowers using bead caps that are deliberately larger than the bead.
Small bead caps can also work just as well on larger beads.
I often use just a small bead cap at the top which is great for holly berries or mistletoe - and a tiny bead cap at one end and a larger one at the other - perfect for blackcurrants and other fruits or seeds.
I also use them inside flower beads of all kinds for a little extra detail and dimension.
Mix and match
Don't be scared to mix your bead cap styles within your design.
I love to highlight my 'star' beads by using different bead caps on them to the rest of the beads. You can also layer them or turn them upside-down for some lovely effects.
The number one rule is there are no rules (well, not many anyway)!
If you're feeling brave, you can find many more uses for the humble bead cap. For instance, you can modify them with just a pair of pliers or a hammer.
With a little gentle persuasion, tulip style bead caps can be bent to form a cage (with or without a bead) and the thinner ones can even be curled back on themselves using round nose pliers for yet another look.
Try using bead caps without a bead at all and add a pretty layer to earrings.
In my cameo bliss earrings (picture left) I have used bead caps as a feature on their own for added interest.
Make a bead
In these 'Taste of the Orient' earrings I have used two bead caps facing each other to form a bead.
Hammer it out
Filigree bead caps can be hammered flat and connected together with jump rings to form a fancy chain or pretty connector.
The symmetrical design of filigree caps also makes them the perfect base for creating beaded flowers that are then easily attached to other components such as brooch pins.
A final word
So next time you go in search of findings for your latest creation, look beyond their intended function and be adventurous.
The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
About the author
Helen Bowen is a member of the Guild of Jewellery Designers and is a Self-Representing Artist Jewellery Designer (SRAJD). She is owner/creator of Ring O’ Roses – Handmade Jewellery and writer of the ‘A Pocketful of Posies‘ blog. You can also find her designs on her Etsy page. From her home in Warwickshire, she designs and makes beautiful individual pieces with a strong reference to nature and a real eye for colour and detail. She works on commission but also creates for general sale in her Etsy Shop.
Give it a go – Win some bead caps to play with
If Helen’s tips have inspired you into giving bead caps a go, now is your chance! Please tell us why you enjoyed this article and what you would like to see some top tips on in the comments box below. The author of one comment will be picked at random and sent a mixed pack of bead caps to play with. Please let us know your thoughts by midnight on Sunday 29th April 2012.