Platonic Fire

Fire 17
Swarovski Elements, Beads and Copper

I collected a lot of these Swarovski shapes in tones of Magma, Crystal Copper, Crystal Golden Shadow and Bronze and mated them with hints of Tanzanite and Provence Lavender.  The various effects and finishes combined to create a color palette reminiscent of flames.  The Copper wire shape is a concentric triangle, which is meant to symbolize the stately tetrahedron.  The tetrahedron, more commonly thought of as the “pyramid”, is one of the five Platonic solids that has been theorized, by Plato, to correspond with the “fire” element.  Hence the name Platonic Fire.

Here is how the design came together.  Looking at the elements, I decided how I wanted to arrange them.

Fire 01 Fire 02

  • How dense did I want the large elements to be?
  • What kind of structure could support that density?
  • How should the elements be arranged to best show off the variety of their colors and shapes?
  • What other colors and finishes and bead shapes and sizes would help bring it all together?

Fire 05

I formed a rough version of the concentric triangle design in 14 gauge copper wire.  Once I was confident that the shape was what I wanted, I hardened it with a hammer and anvil.

Fire 07

In the end, I arranged the rich red tones at the bottom, going up through the copper, topaz, and gold tones at the top.  The icy shades like Provence Lavender, Tanzanite AB2X and Violet Satin really looked great with the cool silver/blue/violet of the AB and AB2X finish.  Light Smoky Topaz AB2X looks like a blue/violet bead unless you look through it, into the light, where the subtle metallic brown of the bead can be seen.  Ceylon Topaz AB2X is a breathtaking color, like a champagne with frost.  Topaz with Glacier Blue is richly gold with occasional flashes of pure violet, a truly magical effect when seen in real life.

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I wanted to incorporate this chain as an added support for these odd shaped elements.  The wire on the other side is 26 gauge antiqued bronze finish.  It is delicate and beautiful but not sturdy, and not likely to hold up against movement.  I did not know, at this time, whether I’d be able to pull it off, but that was my “plan”.

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The red rectangle is being held with a temporary wire on the bottom to support it during construction.  I can replace it with the chain later.  The chain is held simply by threading it on to the 26ga wire before the wire is coiled onto the large copper triangle.

As you can see, the plan changed constantly during construction.

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The triangles are not straight.  They are an organic, freeform shape, like the curves of a lick of flame.  This allows the design to shift as needed to accommodate the elements.  It is easier to make freeform designs look good than it is to make a rigid or straight design look good.  The roundness of the Swarovski Organic Triangles and Organic Squares were a great intermediate between the more symmetrical Swarovski elements and the freeform triangular base.  The 26 gauge wire is often curled in circlets and whisps to emulate the coils of smoke that rise from an open fire.

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The final design turned out better than I had anticipated.  I liked the chain.  I love using the 3mm bicones.  Those are the smallest diamond-shaped beads.  They provide the just-right flash of contrast and the perfect tiny size to make those little adjustments.

Fire 17


In case you were wondering, I’m planning to do The Ether Element next.

Posted in Wire & Stone

White Cherry Tree

WhiteCherry 08

This is a picture-by-picture explanation of how I made the above wire and gemstone tree.  Inspired by the flowering cherry trees with their big white flowers and subtle hints of pink, I designed this to be light and airy and full of bright spring energy.

Let’s start at the beginning with the copper hoop and a small selection of beads.  The copper hoop was made by hammering a length of 12 gauge copper wire until it was flattened (somewhat) and hard.  Hammering hardens the wire so it can keep its shape.

WhiteCherry 01

The square flat beads are moonstone.  The faceted beads are all Swarovski rhinestone beads in various colors including:

– Fire Opal AB2X, Fuchsia AB2X, Light Rose AB2X, Province Lavender, and Rose Water Opal

– All Swarovski bicone beads in 3mm and 4mm sizes

WhiteCherry 02

The branches are made with 26 gauge brown wire, but copper wire works too.  The wire for the branches should be about 4-1/2 times as long as the diameter of the hoop.  I take a length of wire, measure out two hoop-lengths (plus some extra), bend the wire at the measured point and consider that this will be the center of the length of wire.  Fold it back on itself and cut when you meet the tail end.

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Join the branches together as you build down, alternating between branch designs to keep an organic feel.  Eventually, they will all come together to form the trunk.

WhiteCherry 04

Add some shorter branches to the middle of the tree.  They will keep the design from looking sparse.  Here is one that I created, first by making a long loop of wire to decide how long the branch should be…

WhiteCherry 05

Then I added the stones and twisted the wire back on itself to form the branch.

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Continue adding branches, joining them together and building down.  The more variety you can include in the planning and architecture of your tree, the more organic the design will be.

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If you notice an empty area, or if something isn’t coming together in a way you like, you can un-twist and un-join the branches and try again in a different way.  This generally works once or twice.  Any more redesigning and you risk breaking the wire.

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The more you manipulate wire, the more brittle it becomes, until eventually it will break rather than bend.  For this reason, you should make gentle but purposeful twists.  Don’t twist too tight.


As larger branches are twisted together, it gets a little more challenging to make them blend together naturally.


I tend to spread out the wires of the individual branches and massage them together with my fingers as I twist the two bundles together.


In the end, it should look like one branch turning into 2 branches, not like unraveling rope.  You can avoid this challenge by always joining unequally sized branches.  The smaller one will tend to fall into the larger one.  But I tend to like the look of two big sections joining together.


On this tree, I created a strip of wildflowers across the horizon.  It was done with a single piece of wire, like this:


The strip was long enough to go across the width and coil at the sides of the hoop.  I twisted one root to the right side and one to the left side to stabilize the tree to the horizon.


I then started to spread out the roots in a radial pattern.  Some of the roots were coiled around the hoop and cut off.  Some were twisted around the hoop and back up and into the trunk.


Those are cut off and tucked into the trunk to make it thicker at the bottom, like an actual tree trunk.


And here is the end result!

WhiteCherry 07


Posted in DIY Projects, Wire & Stone

Decoupage Teacup Planter

Decoupage Cup with Oxalis by Laura Ockel 2

The cup and saucer came from Goodwill and cost about 50¢ a piece.

The decorations are hand cut out of scrapbooking paper and gold tissue paper from Michaels.  The flowers were cut using a Martha Stewart punch.

The papers were chosen to complement the clover plant (oxalis) which is green in front and wine in back.

Decoupage Cup with Oxalis by Laura Ockel 1

The oxalis was grown from a cutting of a single stem and leaf from my father’s best friend, Dominic.  I’d never seen an oxalis before.  It was like a surreally oversized plant from Alice in Wonderland.

Oxalis 7

I did not think the cutting would root, but I took it home in the little film container Nick had given me and watched in surprise as it refused to die for week after week.

Oxalis 2

When the growth of roots became apparent, I started to design the teacup planter to go with it.

Oxalis 1

My fiancee drilled a hole into the bottom of the cup using a drill bit made for glass.  It looked like an arrowhead.  IMPORTANT:  Drill the hole before doing the decoupage.  The drilling may break the cup, especially if it is your first time.  If you break a fifty cent cup from Goodwill, no big deal.  If you break a work of art you’ve just spent hours creating, it sucks.

Oxalis 4

I used gold metallic tissue paper for the saucer and for the bottom of the cup.  That way, the red cup would match the white saucer.  I used Mod Podge to apply the paper decorations.  I was careful to avoid leaving blotches of Mod Podge on the exposed ceramic of the cup.  If the cup had been covered with tissue paper (like most of my other pieces) it wouldn’t have mattered, but the glue would have looked sloppy on the ceramic.  For the finer details, like the flower shapes, I cleaned the crevices with a toothpick.

After the design was finished, I applied several coats of clear acrylic spray paint to protect it.  It was probably Krylon Low Odor Matte Clear, but it could have been Krylon Crystal Clear Gloss.  I used both for my decoupage cups.  I’ve now gone to using Rust-Oleum Triple Thick Glaze.  The Triple Thick Glaze needs to be applied liberally all over.  If you try applying a light layer, it develops a matte grainy texture.  If you apply it too thick, it can sometimes become cloudy and opaque.  If you try to apply some here now in one coat and some over there in a later coat, the area between the two coats gets grainy.  I’ve found that you’re in good shape if it looks evenly glossy when you’re done spraying.  As you might have noticed, I’m still working on the clear coat.

However, I did this cup a year ago and used several coats of clear acrylic and it has held up just fine.  To be sure, I have not gotten it wet or dirty, so the pristine condition is more likely an effect of the careful treatment than it is a tribute to the quality of clear acrylic.  The saucer did NOT hold up at all.  I’d given it extra protective coats, but as soon as it got wet, it formed a white opaque haze.  Months later, I sanded off the white opaque clear coat and applied Rust-Oleum Never Wet to the saucer.  Now that works.  It has a bit of a hazy blue finish, but that might have been a result of my… (what’s the polite word for incompetence?) and the haze is hardly noticeable.

Then I planted my oxalis.

Oxalis 6

The roots had grown into this paper towel I had used to wrap the stems.  No, I don’t know why I never bothered to remove the paper towel.  Partly because it was in an opaque film container* and I was afraid I wouldn’t notice if the water level dropped.  The plant lived, so maybe I’m on to something.

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It sure looked pitiful when I planted it.  I used an olive pick to support it, and a little wire twist to hold it to the pick.  The plant had grown a new stem and clover while in the process of making roots.  I had a dream about kittens last night.  The baby clover reminded me of a kitten, but her ears were too round and she didn’t look she’d ever grow to be like her mum.  I must admit, I was starting to question the wisdom of designing a cup to match this sickly-looking plant.

I put the plant in soil on 4/14/14.  I got the cutting on 1/19 and I started on the cup two months later on 3/29.  On that day, she was growing all sorts of little sprigs.

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Now she’s all grown up with flowers of her own.

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Decoupage Cup with Oxalis by Laura Ockel 3

Hope you enjoy my articles & have a terrific day!


* Younglings – film used to go in little plastic cylinders with lids and you could re-use them for all sorts of stuff.  I put sand in mine when I went to the beach, which was rare.  Now that I travel more, I find myself missing those little stray film canisters rolling around in my camera bag, ready to hold some powdery sand and tiny, thin shells.  However, my pocket smartphone allows me to photo document my life in a way where I can show you a story instead of just telling it, and that makes me grateful for the digital age.       #rethinkingnostalgia


Posted in DIY Projects

Zalia Dawn

Zales and Rhodies by Laura Ockel 2

My newest copper and rhinestone sun-catcher.  See it come together step-by-step…


Picking out the color palette.      4

The frame is made with 4 lengths of 14 gauge copper wire, hammered for texture and hardness.  The squiggly design inside the frame is made using 1 long length of 18 gauge copper wire, also hammered.  Hammering the metal makes it hard enough to retain its shape.

Use leftover wire snips to temporarily hold the design inside the frame as you secure the four corners.


Use 26 gauge copper wire to secure the corners.









The 26 gauge wire is also used to attach the beadwork.  I work with 1 and 1/2 ft of thin wire at a time, zigging and zagging it back and forth through the areas of the design I want to fill with colored beads.


In this design, I envision a flower with petals that range from soft pastel purple tones out to vibrant fire hues at the outer edges.  The squiggly wire outlines the petals and defines the center of the flower.

As the wire attaches the beads to the outline, it is also used to attach the outline to the 16 gauge frame.


Every so often, I look at the bead colors against an illuminated light background to make sure the colors transition perfectly in any lighting.

Once the design is complete, tie off the last of the wire strands by twisting them tightly around the outline.  Then cut the excess thin wire flush with the thick wire outline, and use your pliers to push the end down flat.10

The light pink/purple beads are Alexandrite.  Depending on the light, they may range from a soft lilac pink shade to a icy blue violet.  Alexandrite is one of the few color-changing beads available on the market.

The magenta bicone beads are Swarovski AB2X in ruby and light siam.  The AB2X finish gives them a blue/purple luminescence that ties them in with the Alexandrite beads in the center.

Most of the rest of these are inexpensive rhinestone beads that I’ve acquired over the years from various bead shows and craft stores.  The wire is easy to find on Amazon, or you can substitute 16 gauge for the 14 and 20 gauge for the 18.


Posted in Wire & Stone

A Dry Champagne

ChampagneA by LauraOckel

Oversized barware has become a popular item in craft stores, but what can you do with them?  Well, here’s one idea.

By combining a mini succulent plant and a collection of crystals, I’ve created an airy, colorful demonstration of patterns in nature.

Champagne1 by LauraOckel

The bottom of the glass is filled with sand for drainage, but by using colorful sand, it becomes part of the design.

Champagne3 by LauraOckel


The succulent is placed on top of the sand while still in the original pot.  The surrounding area is then filled with pebbles (I used white aquarium gravel on this one) and coarse sand.

ChampagneB by LauraOckel


Try to keep the sand in the inner circle of the terrarium.  If you put sand over the top of the pebbles, it will trickle down through the rocks and look messy.  But if the outer circle of the terrarium has only pebbles, it will look well-manicured like a botanical garden.

For a step-by-step tutorial on making a sand art terrarium, click HERE.

The crystals used in this terrarium are amethyst and quartz, picked up from a local rock and gem show.

Champagne2 by LauraOckel

Champagne4 by LauraOckel





Posted in Terrariums

Sun Daisy

Sun Daisy Rhinestone & Wire Wrapping

Sun Daisy by Laura OckelThis is my latest (and new favorite) wire wrapping project.  I’m going to post it on Pinterest because I’m curious to see if people like it.  If I get some pins, I’ll write up a tutorial with pics of the work in progress, the metamorphosis of the concept and the development of the color palette. This started out as a very abstract design, but the lower area started looking very organic, like a flower.  I was planning a speckled gradient from hot pink through fire opal and lemon into lime and hints of teal.  As the daisy emerged, I saw the upper right design as a sun and the rolling curves in the center as cumulonimbus clouds.  The sun has a pointy motif with an excessive quantity of Swarovski AB2X  bicones radiating like sun beams. The beads in the clouds were added more as a support than as a design element.  The piece looked good without them.  However, once I saw those round pave beads separating the sun from the daisy, I fell in love.  They really add dimension to the piece.  They set a clear separation, and their roundness somehow creates the illusion of depth.

Sun Daisy2 by Laura Ockel

Posted in DIY Projects, Wire & Stone

The Highway Powerline Process

I’ve been working on this process for a series of highway powerline photos. Highway Powerlines 1
– First, the image is changed to high contrast black and white,

– Then a vignette is added on a separate Photoshop layer in salmon/clay brown, set to *Difference*

Vignette set at Normal 100% Opacity

Vignette set at Difference 100% Opacity

– Then the artistic border is added in the same clay brown set to *Multiply* at 22% opacity

And here is the final result:Highway Powerlines 3s

In this one, I kept some of the original color of two signs. Highway Powerlines 2s The artistic edges were purchased from Daz3D in a collection called Ron’s Artistic Edges.

Posted in Tutorials and Resources

Color Paper Texture

Custom Photoshop Texture

Haizy Create this effect using the custom texture below.  Click for full size version, then right-click and “save image as” to download.  Use the texture as a Photoshop layer set to Vivid Light at 100%.

Color Paper Texture2flowertexturebefore

texturehow Or try the alternate color version below.  It also looks great on the Difference or Hard Light layer setting at 100% opacity.

Color Paper Texture



Customize your color palette by shifting the hue of the texture layer, or try flipping the texture or rotating it 180 degrees.

This is an easy way to work with textures and it gives you a lot of flexibility.  You can alter the hue and saturation of the original image or the texture layer.  You can erase parts of the texture layer to highlight the best aspects of the original photo.

You can also use this custom texture in Perfect Effects, providing that you know how to access a custom texture in Perfect Effects.  If not, have no fear, for I will be covering that soon in an upcoming blog post.   Warmest wishes until then!

Posted in Tutorials and Resources

Removing Rainspots

tulip1The rainspots were annoying.  The picture was nice enough, but I thought those little white speckles on the dark tulips really detracted from the image.  But I didn’t like the image enough to remove each dot individually.  Nobody would see it that closely.

Topaz Simplify is a great Photoshop plug-in with many fun applications, but for once I just wanted to “simplify” an image.  I also added a little extra color, and here is the result:

tulip2It’s a subtle change, but that’s what I wanted.  View the images full screen to really see the effect.

Rather than go through all the settings, here is the Topaz Simplify preset to download:


If you have Topaz Simplify 4, the button to import a preset is in the bottom left corner, right next to the buttons to save and export.  This zip file has 2 versions of the “Remove Waterspots” preset.  If you go to customize them, the Global Adjustment – Simplify – Simplify Size is an important setting to play with.  A lot of the settings had no impact on my tulip images, but they may be important for your subject matter.

Topaz Import

Posted in Photography, Tutorials and Resources Tagged , , |

Next Up

Next time, turn an ugly teacup into an attractive planter using decoupage


& a new spin on terrariums – the underwater garden


Posted in DIY Projects