Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Moving house

Thank you! for following my sporadic musings this far. I'm feeling happy because at long last I have a new web home. A place that includes a blog, my classes calendar, my kits and books shop and a sparkly new way to purchase my digital patterns.
So this will be my last post on this blog for now.
 I'd love you to follow my next chapters, so please feel welcome to hop on over to the new website and follow my adventures from there.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Recycling an idea

This week during a Spring cleaning 'urge to purge' cupboard clearing session, I found a box of old
teaching stuff. In it were samples left over from a class I used to teach called 'Tibetan Wraps'. Each time I would introduce the class, spread out random heaps of papers, threads, fabric scraps and beads (of course), then urge the participants to add glue and a willingness to just play. Each time I'd be given those 'So not what I thought it was going to be' stares, and the resigned, 'Oh well, I'm here so I may as well get on with it' shrugs. But every time, by the end of class it was a hard job to get people to go home as they finished just one more, just one more.
The results are lightweight yet remarkably tough beads, a great way to experiment with colour and the bonus is that the more you make the richer the overall effect. I taught the class many times as word spread and friends admired the finished necklaces and bracelets.

I also found a packet of mini pendants which made me smile at the memory... these were another recycling experiment which were the result of a random conversation in a coffee shop about how to find a creative use for those wooden coffee stirring sticks. Go on a quest and you'll find them in all sorts of sizes, thicknesses and qualities of wood.  If you have some hours to spare and a lot of patience, here's what I did.
First I coloured the sticks with felt tip pens, messy but fun. Then I glued them on to patchwork fabric, a light cotton with a mini print. Then I trimmed the fabric flush to the wood, cut the now pretty sticks into short lengths and filed the ends round. I drilled a hole in one end and hammered in a metal eyelet. It took hours and many split failures! Next (there's more?), I hung them up and painted them with clear varnish, I know! In what life did I have ever time for such insanity?

I confess, they ended up in a bag, in the box, in the cupboard. So to honour that previous self who thought nothing of spending an entire day proving you could make something from throwaway stirrers... I gathered together a length of dark metallic chain (A sale time 'bargain box' find), matching jump rings and eye pins, and some nice silvery antique looking end caps. An hour later I had two necklaces and a sense of having completed a job left too long undone.
 The necklaces are basically a single strand with no clasp, just loop the ends and they'll stay in place. Or add a lobster clasp and jump ring at a strategic point to hold the two sides together.
The coffee stirrer pendants became fringe ends for little chain tassels attached to the end beads. Surprisingly, they tinkle enchantingly as they move.

I'm thinking it might be time for a Tibetan Wrap revival!

Friday, 4 March 2016

Sunrise, Sunset

Last year I was a smidge lavish and treated myself to a cabochon. Well, I know, this is not an uncommon treat for self, but this particular cabochon was an investment, I went to visit it several times before I thought up enough reasons to justify the cost, but in the end it was the swift and unarguable, 'if you don't you will always regret it' thought. Tada! Sonora Sunrise Jasper in all it's vivid glory. Also known as Sonora Sunset Jasper, Chrysocolla Cuprite has been mined in Sonora, Mexico since 2006. Aparently it is a healing stone used for strengthening the body's resistance and bringing a calm feeling where there is upset.
Honestly, it just makes me happy to look at such a natural wonder.

It also stirred up memories of this big book of paintings by Gerard Curtis Delano (1880-1972).


Sundown in the Canyon













Medicine Bird, Denver Art Museum, Colorado. Visit if you can,

I spent many happy hours as a child looking at the amazing landscapes, I would work slowly through the book, lost in the wide open spaces, soaking in the colour, the time of day, the heat of the sun; calmed by the strangeness of a place so unlike our green, hedge and tree filled corner of England. To a seven year old, this was a magical place of retreat

Now back to the beautiful stone and how to do the beading thing and make it into a wearable. There were a few false starts, I tried various bezels, but none really honoured the stone. In the end I added texture in a mix of seed beads in the colours of the stone, with red coral and turquoise beads and antique pewter beads. Fringing grew from the edges, which gave me the idea for a big textured bail. I found some lampwork glass beads to link it together. The rest of them are included in a right angle weave rope which is worked is size 8 seed beads and embellished with 11's. It is huge! and I love wearing it, it does bring a calm feeling just like Mr Delano's paintings did all those years ago.
Sonora necklace.
Sonora Necklace detail.






Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Finding inspiration in the stars

New Year, fresh start, new beginnings, resolutions anyone? Nope, me either! Instead just a tiny little promise to self to take time to find ideas. 
First this... 
"We all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us.We are born able to sing to birds, and read the clouds and see out destiny in a grain of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to act our age. Told to grow up, for God's sake. And you know why we are told that? Because the people doing the telling were afraid of our wildness and youth, and because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad of what they's allowed to wither in themselves". (excerpt from Boy's Life by Robert McCammon)

A reminder to go right back to the beginning of you, and just be you.
Part of the little promise to self is to have the nerve to get the phone out and snap those random images. It's so easy, now that phones have uber cool cameras, but I've missed some great ideas by being too shy to just take the shot. 


Next this... on a cold December day.
The work of Stone carver Alec Peever and a beautiful poem by Alyson Hallett. 

The word 'Star' is randomly placed on a street corner. 
Across the way there is more... 

"Arise from the earth like water
give birth to your sacred dreams
this world's an ocean of mirrors
an invitation to create and be seen". 

Which is just the most beautiful thing to happen upon. See more of their works here.

The colours in the snapshot got me thinking about these lovely glass cabochons. They are vintage and the backing is chipped and flaky, but they sing to my love of moonstones.
The ideas of moonstones, stars and monochrome pavement colours began to take root. With this for a thought, 
"If I was really full of magic and whirlwinds and took up the invitation to create and be seen, what might happen?"... 

So out came the beads and the decision to make a piece for the pure fun of seeing where it would end up. Because the glass cabochons were fragile I figured the best way to protect them was to use bead embroidery techniques to hold them in place. It's usually at this point that the original ideas quieten down, and the whole thing becomes a more practical series of 'what if?' questions. Then the piece begins to grow... based on endless decisions and changes of mind, while the bead tray becomes a chaotic mess that is, in all honesty, my happy place!


I found a real moonstone pendant, which led me eventually to a piece which grew into this...

The little brass rings which link each section together have the words Love, Dream, Hope, Trust, stamped in tiny lettering around them.

I used a mix of crystals and seed beads in stone colours with a few milky glass size 8 beads to pick up the colours of the glass cabochons and moonstone pendant.

Now the piece is finished and ready to wear, there is a bonus, all those questions, and decisions, and solutions have given rise to lots more ideas and alternatives. I love making pieces like this for that very reason. 

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Finding colour inspiration

grown up fruit
Step 1, So you find a colour combo that makes your heart sing, but how to turn it into something beady?
I spotted this happy composition of fruit,
the bowl is a black and white 'hand made in the 1950's at an art school' lumpy thing, a charity shop find that I just love. Painted in a blue black glaze in swirls.
But less about my fruit bowl and more about the fruit therein.
Russet apples and black grapes still with the bloom on them, delush! (divinely lush or deliciously divine)?
Step one accomplished, colour inspiration.

Step 2, bead conversion!
The way to do it is pick out as many bead colours that you can find in your stash that match up to your source of colour inspiration, don't over think it, just grab and pile them up. You might find that there are subtle secondary influences going on too:
It just so happens that this autumn, all shades of mustard and ginger have hit the high streets and I find myself wearing mustard coloured jumpers with pale blue denim or adding a blue and turquoise scarf. Maybe the fashion world has nudged me to notice those colours more too.


Step 3, find a beading pattern and just go for it.
The pattern will have a list of how many colours are
needed, and which sizes of beads to use, so go through your newly piled up palette and pick out a combination to suit the pattern requirements.
This is the fun bit, and may take a while, but because you have a basic palette you know the bead colours will sit together. It's at this stage that I drift away from my original source of inspiration and let the beads do the talking.
For my Step 3, I thought, hmm, I would love me a bangle or two to slide on, you know, just to spread the bead happy up my arms. An evening of beading later and I have this zingy version of my City Bangle  match my new jumper. I didn't have any really dark blue/black beads, so I used a dark teal and a little bit of bright turqouise because the beads looked good together, then added a bit of 'warmth' with dark copper O beads along the edges.

Once you hit on a good combo, it's hard to stop at one!
I'd picked out quite a few crystals (hard to resist!) so as my bangle design didn't need them, I used a Minerva Spiral, and luscious lime Swarovski bicones became all mixed in with dark blue and dark copper coloured beads. I love this technique because you can throw just about any bead combination at it and it will work up into a gorgeous rope in no time.The more you vary the bead sizes, the more shapely the rope will become, just keep the sequence small to large and back again. The Minerva Spirals book was out of print, but we found a box full so they are now up on the website.