Retro Jazz: Singer Mildred Bailey and Pearls

When I write new music for a project, whether for my own CDs or someone else’s, or a video, there are usually two seemingly opposite creative things going on. First, once a song or idea ‘takes’, I become obsessively focused with it; the concept, the genre, the instruments, the writer, the frontmen- exploring everything around “it”. All of this led to my discovery of the “First Queen of Swing” songstress Mildred Bailey.

A friend asked recently, “what’s up with the pearls in your shop? I never thought you a pearl person.”  True, I used to only make pearl jewelry for my working friends- simple and classic. But singing retro jazz has changed that: I love to layer pearl chokers with longer necklaces, and now make pieces- similar to what I wear on stage- for a new “Onstage and After Hours collection.” Actually, there are specific musical influences that make these more retro than modern…  😉


When I write new music for a project, whether for my own CDs or someone elses, or for a video- there are usually two seemingly opposite creative things going on. First, once a song or idea ‘takes’, I become obsessively focused with it; the concept, the genre, the instruments, the writer, the frontmen- exploring everything about “it”. Second, I always keep a lazy ear open to hear what others on a similar track, are doing/ or might have done, with a similar Muse; it could be 2012 or 1912; a rapper or a legendary composer. These sparks all go into the mix  of writing a song several ways, until one ‘catches’.  The final version is usually something that self selects; usually by the next morning, when I wake up mindlessly humming one version. Ha! That is my litmus test, if even I can’t get a hook out of my head. 😉

For my latest CD, Torch and Sass, when I was exploring “retro” jazz, my vinyl collection scattered across the floor was only the first springboard of discovery.  Then came visits to my favorite music and record stores to talk to experts. I would say “I’m listening to X, and I want to discover more.” I love to see my friends go into overdrive to inspire others, pulling music from bins, spinning turntables, talking story on their favorite artists, songs, labels, with those very cool little known tidbits of info in between. Ah… this fading art!  I mean, Wikipedia is good and all, but nothing beats a listening tour back through time, with pictures, and luxuriously long liner notes from album covers.  (*Sigh*.)  JC at Downhome records is my favorite contact for this, and Dave at Dave’s record shop, Emeryville.

So, this kind of musical sleuthing led me to vocalist Mildred Bailey; somewhere between looking for ukulele jazz, blues driven jazz, and 1930’s composers for Louis Armstrong- Mildred Bailey’s name popped up.


Mildred Bailey from the Pacific Coast, called “First Lady of Swing”,  was said to be one of the very first woman singers in jazz, the first to sing with emerging big bands (Paul Whiteman, Eddie Lang, Benny Goodman), AND is said to have been a primary influence for the young Sarah Vaughan. Here is an early tune of Mildred’s, 1931.

Mildred was also the first female musician to get a guaranteed pay in the business, less than half the male musicians of the day, but significant considering. Being one of the first- the road was tough as her biographical notes hint at- Mildred called the “Queen of Swing”, had a versatile voice, and was established quickly with the big-band orchestras of the day. But as the sound of big band grew, so did the preference for women singers who fit a certain look and profile.  Though radio made her popular, and her voice was gorgeous, big-band leaders favored more petite female singers.  Sadly, this, and health issues, affected her career.  A song from the peak of her career in swing- Darn that Dream:

Mildred’s lilt, range, fine, bright tones, and her emotive delivery- that morphs with every song- inspired my singing for Torch and Sass. My voice is a low alto, and many in the lower registers have to work harder to get clear tones in the higher registers; so these women are definitely role models for me.

Mildred’s alleged taste in furs and jewelry, inspired this pearl jewelry collection in my Etsy store.  (And grandma’s Majorca pearls.)  I was never into pearls before, but these “vintage” pearls of the past seemed a great way to celebrate Mildred’s beautiful voice and contribution toward establishing women in jazz.

Use code pearls20 to get 20% off anything with pearls-until May 31st.

pearl2 Collage

Frivolous Spring & New Jewelry

It’s Spring! Time for more frivolity~ Here is new jewelry finished over recent weeks. These first few were special orders, with pendants by Wondrous Strange Designs. I interviewed the artist here.

It’s Spring!   Time to get silly!Swim in the sunshine

Our neighborhood is everywhere blooming, and today is our first really hot day (73f).

Here is new jewelry that I finished over recent weeks.  These first few were special orders for a client- with amazing pendants by Wondrous Strange Designs. I interviewed the artist here.





My favorite Mermaid pendant by BlackMud Studios. With 16 different kinds of pearl.  Sold.

And I’m craving watermelon already…  This was made, in part, with Andrew Thornton’s premium seed blend, and I wire wrapped lots of green Indian glass. I love these Peruvian made goddess pendants. 😉  See it here.


And I know it’s lame- but I’ve no time to finish or post my poem, because I’m off to another rehearsal now. So, I’m posting one from last year this time, on the theme of Frivolous! ~ Inspired by Jaya King’s painting-

Tiny bird
tangerine teal
I see that worm shimmy
glitter up your hat as if
is here     or your birthday
or a song you can’t stop
singing… “I’m No. 1, I’m No.1, I’m No. 1″

in Joy major.

Cheep-By JayaKing

Happy Dia de Los Muertos! New Work and Day of the Dead Jewelry GiveAway

Happy Dia de Los Muertos, Halloween, & All Souls Everyone!!! I’m hosting a jewelry Giveaway for a pair of Day of the Dead painted charm and sterling silver earrings below.

Happy Dia de Los Muertos, Halloween, & All Souls Everyone!!!  I’m hosting a giveaway for a pair of Day of the Dead painted charm and sterling silver earrings below.

But first, check out this cool Gulian vine bead from the Philippines. Huge, wood, dyed and lacquered. I am trying to find out what kind of plant it comes from… anyone know?

I think it may also have grown in Kamala’s garden, thus the Buddha pendant… more on that soon.

And surprise! Day of the Dead jewelry !! Haha 😉

I’ve moved from the fall color palette to blingy with color and crystals.  And am finally inspired to start experimenting with embellishment; something new for me; like the finish on the little Buddha charm above, or Vintaj metal treatments to these cool silver metal charms.  I am still a sterling silver/gold vermeil purist- but for now, these Day of the Dead charms are too fun to pass playing with.  Festive Music.

It’s Marina of fancidevices, er her designs and tutorials, that are inspiring me to take more risk.  There is a spontaneity to that grrrl’s jewelry designs that puts me in awe- even though our materials and styles are nothing alike, and I don’t alter finishes or rework materials much (too hooked on bling!). But the originality of her compositions draws me in- as if each piece has been on a long journey and we just happened to be in the right time and place to find it, whether in a museum, or digging it from the dirt: each piece fascinates that way.  But I’ll crush on Marina’s work, and her tribal, victorian, assemblage world later as I get into her tutorials.  For now- it’s her creative output that’s got me hooked (addicted!) to her blog. That and her crazy fun, dark, LOL humor.  Check her out- and (she’s having a sale now).  Her packaging is a world unto itself- nautical maps…Hindi advertisment papers, DNA like octogons cut from children’s books…wow.

And you KNOW of my long time Artists Crush on Charlene of Black Mud Studios:  Her stonewear sugar skulls this year are the BEST, and I won’t stop working with them any time soon. Holidays or not.  Inspired by Fall Migration  colors of Monarch butterfly.

And a gold/vermeil wire-wrapped chain version-More colors to come.

Loving these Biwa pearls. Never too precious for Tibetan laughing skulls 😉





















JEWElERLY GIVEAWAY:  In honor of Day of the Dead celebrations today and tomorrow- I’m hosting a giveaway of these earrings (actually, a very similar second pair, but my camera just died, and I MUST get back to booking gigs, so this pic will have to do… ; )  You can read about them here-

To win them- leave a message on this blog post saying what you think of the Day of the Dead holidays. (All opinions welcome- but NOTE: kids visit too- so nothing rude).  Also- be sure to put your e-mail (soo many of you don’t have links back to your blogs, email, or contact info- even on your avatars.  Make sure I can reach you!)  Open to everyone- international customers welcome.

Oh wait, almost forgot- a piece of jasper that inspired a dream that inspired a poem.  A cartographer working in a very small, dark room…

“When one could wander, listless, but instead closes one’s eyes to hear the heart,
One awakens in the Cartographer’s Dream, seeing what to map next.”

“She studied the mauve plain.
Fissures and fractures
leading to the ravine- all yet to be mapped, and
fumaroles and holes so deep they would draw down all
of her ink just to color their reflections in indigo…”

from The Cartographer’s Dream,  TL

This and more inspirations from poems, book bits, quotes are getting posted along with jewelry pieces in my shop Three Muses on etsy.

Leaves, Lava, Olive and Rust; new Jewelry for Fall

new Fall jewelry!

Twice this summer I brought my finished jewelry on the road to sell at shows; necklaces, earrings, bracelets – all laid- next to CDs on the merch table. In Germany, I think folks bought nearly all I had.  I forgot to bring anything to present everything on (doh!).  But folks must have had great imagination. Or deep empathy.  Maybe it was the ability to wear and model amid close friends before buying.

Pieces that went to new homes…

New Inspirations for Three Muses:   Leaves & Biwa pearls with tourmaline.

Lava Tube Caves of Modoc County inspired me to use Basha’s basaltic black dichronic glass beads. And I’m craving making sterling chains again…

I love how she makes tiny batches of whatever the Muse inspires.  Even if you ask her to recreate something, it will be different than before.  Que bien.

These large gorgeous olive pearls are Fall-ish & fun.   I’ll add some with rust too.  It’s time to stop hoarding. Fall is a great reminder for that.

I’m going to be teaching at the new beadshop beginning tomorrow. Eeek!  Though I’ve worked at a beadstore, teaching basics to a group is a new concept. And these classes are intensives- 3 hours!  2xEEK. Small groups.  Selfishly, I hope to learn things from the other teachers and students.  I’m ready to kick things up a notch.

Artists Crush- Black Mud Studios

Cool stone ware pendants/jewelry

A friend once called me a ‘crush-a-holic”. When I incredulously asked what she meant, she said “you crush on everyone ALL the time!”  In defense, I said not everyone: artists mostly. And not forever.  “Yes”,  she said- “that’s why they call them crushes.”  🙂

Ok, I do tend to crush on visual artists, or their art.  And dancers.  And performers, especially drummers and bass players. And pretty much anyone who shows mastery of their creative trade in a public setting.  Since I can’t draw a straight line, my longest running crushes are on visual artists.  Writing a song or score- no problem- but sculpture, painting, life drawing seem mystery skills; to be around experts makes me SpongeBob giddy.  Evidence of artist crushes I’ve shown on this blog previously are here. And here.

So, I’ve decided to add a category of new posts called “Artist’s Crush”. It will feature Artists doing almost any creative endeavor that is hopelessly crush worthy, and will include folks making art beads whose work inspires fun, finished jewelry. 😉

So, I have mentioned lots of artbead artists on this blog before, but in this new forum- I hope to delve deeper; interview them and find out some cool day-in-the-studio wisdom. For now- the artist who’s work is inspiring mine is- Charlene at Black Mud Studios.  And though I haven’t interviewed her yet, I wanted to share a recent challenge she gave me.

I’ve been working with her stoneware pendants for sometime. Charlene and her studio are in Ontario, Canada. Her pendants are sizable, beautiful with unusual detail, and well-priced. Her natural & gloss finishes are just plain fun to design with.

Recently, before placing my Spring order, Charlene challenged me to make her a necklace that could match multiple pendants. At first I thought- ‘ah, piece-o-cake.’  But then, I find out she wears only short necklaces- 15.5″ (gulp.) And that she wanted them to match interchangeable pendants (2x Gulp).  Of varying finishes/colors (3xGulp).

I wear short necklaces all the time, so no fear there.  [After my 20th necklace breaking onstage when changing instruments, I finally learned.  Of course, it always happened mid-show, the quietest part.  I would fold up my accordion, slip it overhead to trade out with bass or ukulele, and POP! A tiny sound & 200 beads scattering across a wooden stage in 10 directions.  The crowd always gasps as if I’ve broken an arm. ;-]

So short length means there isn’t a whole lot of space to be elaborate in the design, since what is visible in front- is less than half of the necklace.  I studied Charlene’s new finishes, and tried several things.  One is a finished piece but the rest can have pendants easily attached to front or back clasps. I just love her leaf details! The one on the far left is a dogwood design.

These are generously large pendants!  We’re talking 3-4+ inches many of them. So If you like large focals- Charlene’s is the place to get them.  I experimented w/ U and V shaped necklaces, and learned that unusually shaped pendants look great in the V-shape.  Still trying different things- but stringing with large stone chips and pieces is looking right. I’ll post soon to my Etsy store.

Another reason to love Charlene’s work- mermaids! And Seahorses. Bees and sugar skulls!!

Charlene makes lots of buttons, cabachons, links, cool bracelet links, sea creatures, leaves, and other amazing fun pieces, and usually shows us right away on her  Facebook page here.

So stop by Black Mud Studio on Etsy or FB and see what Charlene’s kiln is cookin’ up!

Living Glacier; Blue Ice

New jewelry inspired by blue ice and living glaciers.

Today I’m inspired by glaciers, and living blue ice.

I found these pics looking for something else, and realized I never posted anything from my Alaska tour. So here are just a few from Glacier Bay National Park & Exit Glacier, near Anchorage.

The day we were there, one glacier in the Bay was making lots of noise-  cracks, rumbles, vibration- with periodic bits falling into the water.  The naturalists said that this movement and shift is what makes the glacier living and is everyday activity- not due to global warming per say- but a daily and seasonal expansion and contraction of the glacier itself.  This movement they said was caused by lots of things; whats going on underground (tectonic shifts with the land and ice flows underneath); gravity; side to side movements with other glaciers; and surface changes on top (sun, heat, air temp, more snow).   Amazing to think of the ground as alive and breathing.  😉

Several otter play on ice in front of our boat.     I love this poetic description of living ice and glaciers;

This amazing blue ice has me thinking of aquamarine, kyanite, and fossil stones…

Here are a few new  bracelets inspired by blue ice glaciers and the rich life all around them; evergreens, otters, pearls, oysters, & icy waters.  I’ll post these to my Etsy store soon.

Andrew’s Jewelry Challenge- Reveal!

I took on Andrew Thornton’s Dec/Jan Jewelry Challenge, sight unseen, and was thrilled to see what “jonquil” meant (the only clue he gave us;).

I took on Andrew Thornton’s Dec/Jan Jewelry Challenge, sight unseen, and was thrilled to see what “Jonquil” meant (the only clue he gave us;).

Here is what inspired Andrew’s special color palate;

“jonquil”…traditionally a “spring” color, but while I was walking through the woods in late autumn, I found a leaf that was yellow, tinged with green.  Everything else was brown and gray, but this leaf, left in the middle of the path, was a vibrant burst of color.”

The kit had enameled pieces by Barbara Lewis, ceramic pieces from Diane Hawkey, glass beads from RareEarth, and a mix of Czech glass, chain, Swarovski crystals, and the most gorgeous seed bead, stone, pearl bead blend ever.  The “mystery component” was one of Andrew’s gorgeous copper tree coins. Love it!  Have never worked with such brilliant yellows/golds before.  (I tried experimenting w/ the light- apologies if it is a bit bright 😉

I am relieved that Andrew gave us extra time; since my recent move, gigs, and life… haven’t unpacked all my jewelry supplies.  To this kit I added only a few pearls, a couple of smoky quartz chunks, and gold wire.  Here is my first piece.  Will add the rest very soon…

It was a blast to work with the bead mix; I’m working on a third piece that uses up all- or most- of the generous small bead blend.

This is my first time making hoop earrings. I had planned to add the seed beads up the entire wire- but they didn’t fit on the 18 gauge (note to self for next time…;)

So I’ve visited/commented on everyone’s sites below- but Blogspot only redirects my comments and won’t post them…?? (Ergh! ;().

But you must check out all the gorgeous designs- Folks are so imaginative! Enjoy your blogHop to see others’ creations!

Tara Linda   You are here…