Sunday, 16 December 2012

Did you Rizo yet?

Millipilli, two designs using
Rizo beads
Rizo, or little grain of rice (?), is a new Czech bead which is about the size and shape of... a grain of rice with a hole across one end. 'Meh, and so?' was my first thought, a mini dagger. But these are beguiling little things once you start working with them and now I am completely in love with Rizo!!!!!
I've created several patterns already, all of which, if only I had the time, I long to make in more and more colours and variations...
Centipilli, a Rizo and
Roses (montees) design
Colleagues have instantly used the beads as petals and in bezels, lovely and set to become a firm favourite with beaders. But, for me, what is truly appealing is to see them en masse, and happily, the neatly tapered shape behind the hole means that these beads will nestle and line up in any design from the simplest to the most complex.
To date here are my creations, made with the first sample beads to arrive. Millipilli was the idea that got me thinking about the satisfyingly bristly textures this bead can create, utterly tactile, like the best jewellery should be. Centipilli happened because there is always a need for simple patterns too, the 'make it in an evening and wear it next day' projects. I love this one and have plans for many more, and yes the Rizo do stay in that position. Both these designs are available from bead store where you can also feast on Rizo in a truly delicious array of colours.

Jurassica, don't you just want to
 stroke it!
Jurassica too, a different
and more random texture
Jurassica is the successor of Millipilli, the design where I just wanted to explore the grouping of these beads to make something strokable and textured.
For me, this is where these beads become interesting and I'll be pushing this idea around some more in the weeks to come.
Truthfully I haven't taken my Jurassica bracelet off since I finished off the last thread tail! and I soooo want to go shopping for more and edgier colourways. The design can also be worked to make more random textures as in the pink version. Jurassica is available in my webshop as a download pdf or a traditional printed version.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Wish upon a star

Crystal Star charms
I first taught this little pattern in 2006, and have carried on teaching it pretty much every winter since then. In 2008 it was among the patterns on my first little webshop and continues to be hugely popular. It is quick and easy to learn, and a really useful thing. I like useful, by which I mean it can be worked up in lots of different ways, in different quantities and used to make things from the most (last minute) simple tree or parcel decoration, to a bag or phone charm, used as a festive pendant or grouped together for a bracelet or necklace.
It is also the best fun design for playing around with colour combinations as it doesn't take many beads, or too long to make... another useful aspect.
Here I've been inspired by things Nordic. For the photograph I found myself painting twigs white, this is an excellent time-waster and hugely satisfying in a 'let your mind wander' kind of way while you fill the missed bits. It is only later that you notice a fine mist of white emulsion freckles all over you and the surrounding area... Oh look, permanent snow!
If you are in the mood to enjoy a quick to make festive design,  the printed version is called Stars here (allow extra seasonal posting time) or the download version for instant gratification is called Crystal Star Charms which you can find here.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Let it snow, Mistletoe

Let it snow, mistletoe beaded charm
I've long debated whether to offer my designs as downloads. Call me old fashioned, but I rather love receiving the deliveries of brown cardboard boxes packed with freshly printed patterns. Opening the box is a print lovers heaven scent of silken paper and exotic inks. I also get great pleasure in packaging up my orders in old fashioned crisp paper and cellophane bags, with pretty cards and lovely labels.
I am not so fond of the constantly rising prices of postage, so totally can see why my lovely beading customers in distant lands would prefer the immediacy of downloads.
Now to my personal gripe... and this is being, I know, an editorial aesthete, but... there seems to be a great store and set by offering design instructions on pages and pages and pages and pages.

So, pattern on a postcard was a little technical challenge to see whether it could be done, first here for a much requested design and now given away free with my clasps. Next here, with a design I wanted to share to help the many fund raising requests.
So of course now I'm loving the process, a kind of pattern writing haiku and find myself reviewing designs mentally to see if they can be edited to fit. Of course, these designs by necessity assume a level of ability and are not intended for beginners... although Daisy chains on a postcard is a definite possibility for beginner classes.

I have finally dared myself to try and master the technicalities needed to offer downloads in my webshop. I will be putting more designs into the store as quickly as I convert them from my beloved A5 booklets to easy to download one sided A4's...
So this little pattern is just one lovely printed postcard here, or a single A4 sheet download pdf  here.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Jolly Holly Charm

Holly helping with a crochet project
I often get asked if people can use my work to raise money for charity. And before I start let it be known that I work quite closely and extensively with one or two charities, so I am not a total curmudgeon, nor insensitive to the needs of others.... but, sigh! It is so hard to hesplain that lovely though the idea is and honourable though the intentions may be, it is sending out a really mixed message about copyright if it's OK for some to make a design to sell (for fundraising and charity) and not others (for personal/commercial profit or gain). There it is said.

But, I'm also keenly aware that there is a real pleasure to be had in making something for love, of donating time and skill for the benefit of others. There is also an honest enjoyment in purchasing something lovingly made, whilst knowing that the proceeds will go to a good cause.

Beaded Holly Charm
Holly is part of a series of new designs called Pattern on a Postcard and to celebrate it is a copyright free design. Hopefully you will make many and raise heaps of money for your favourite charity.

All the profits from the sale of the design will go to our local animal sanctuary where they do amazing work every day, as a memorial to my beloved rescue cat Holly. Before things get mawkish, Holly was an amazing character who taught me a lot about the purr-suit of happiness. We were life long friends, a cat life, well lived of 12 years, three months and five days.

So if you are in need of a fairly quick and easy pattern for your fundraising, you can download it here, as a single A4 size pdf, or order the design as a printed 'pattern on a postcard' here.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Rosy Ribbons

Vintage inspired beaded ribbon bracelets
I love the fashion for wrapped bracelets and my Huckeberry Buckle workshop is all about beaded ribbons and embellished buckles. I can now confess that when I first designed it was a working 'in theory' idea.
A beaded ribbon is not like a real ribbon, it is rigid, it takes up space, it needs to have room to move and it definitely hates being pushed in and out of a buckle repeatedly.
What followed was a search for a neat and dainty, yet everso discreet clasp that I could include in my design, getting me past the technical hitch stages and back into gorgeous design territory again.
Happily the 'in-line' clasps, which I now have in my little store, are perfect for any narrow beaded bracelet designs and have proved really popular. At shows I have a demonstration bracelet, which is a double or triple length wrap bracelet... can't tell you how many times I've been asked for the pattern!
So, the pattern is now included with all orders for in-line clasps, it's also to celebrate that I have a new colour of clasp in store now, to go with matt vintage bronze finish and shiny silver plate there is now a slinky dark shiny pewtery gunmetal colour too...mmm

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Here's Halloweeeeeen

image from Sweetly Scrapped,
 a lovely store, go see gorgeous things
Love it or hate it we are now well and truly suckered as far as 'Trick or Treat' goes. Today I saw, in our local supermarket, a black plastic begging bowl complete with 12inch high articulated (glow inna dark) skeleton with nylon batwing cloak... fergdnessakes!  Now forgive me, but this sucks on so many levels! Not so long ago (I use that term advisedly), we would cook up some Parkin (flapjack), dad's famous dental filling removing treacle toffee and spend the afternoon making paper witches hats, big bro would put his trusty boy scout penknife to work on a turnip (yes, we didn't grow pumpkins much then), and come nightfall and accompanied by the smell of candle singed turnip we would run around the garden and a modest bonfire, to shout away the bad things. One or two neighbourhood kids occasionally joined us... but we would never ever have been allowed to knock on doors and beg for sweets with or without menace!

From a young age we understood the meaning of this night of misrule, the time when the dead might return, the time to trick and ward off any malevolent spirits by dressing in disguise. We could sing the Soul cake song, accepted as natural the far back in time meaning of summer's end, of harvest and storage and firelight against the long cold dark to come.

Now, in my neighbourhood the parents have given in, but in rather a lovely way as they all dress up, from toddlers to mums and dads and come round en mass at about seven in the evening. Just like on Wassailing night... (We serve cider and cakes, run through houses waving greenery and eventually come to a standstill around an apple tree and sing the wassail songs whilst deeply inebriated)... it's OK to let it be known that you'd rather not join and the band of witches will rustle on past to the next house.
I'm happy to hand out a pile of sweets, MWAHahahahaa! but not so happy that most of these little ones have no idea of their rich pagan heritage.

Time Traveller's Compass in metallic plum
OK so to celebrate the gothic mood I put a new colourway of my Time Traveller's Compass kit into the shop, it's a lush mix of murky "Celsian' green and darkest metallic plum. I love the mix so much I made myself a necklace, added another link with more spikes on and take delight in feeling everso slightly subversive and gothic.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The first scent of woodsmoke

Busy creating a masterpiece in the Autumn sunshine
The first wisps of woodsmoke, the scent of chill brought indoors in the folds of a coat and Autumn is come upon us. This morning I found this masterpiece half way through production across the gate.

It looks like a little thing across a leafy hedge, but actually MUCH bigger, those leaves in the background are Whitebeam trees standing about 20 yards away (the leaves are each about 10 inches across).

As to the change in seasons, I hate to admit but now it is here, Autumn is welcome. It is kind of a relief to have such a long rain sodden summer behind us, to accept that one's spirit can stand down from hoping for a warm and sunny day!

Autumn sun is still profoundly cheering and I'm trying to make the most of what sunshine comes (usually done by eleven and setting in for rain thereafter). I have some plans for the garden which has got very overgrown, and in theory am starting at the top and working my way down, bed by bed and border by border... should take all winter at this rate!

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Spilled ink and old wood

Original Nouveau Droplet necklace in
Atlantic Wash, with a second colourway
called Firecracker in the background
One of the immense delights of being a teacher and seller of my patterns, is seeing them made up and being worn by a satisfied student or customer, there is no greater complement.
For me, the joy is even greater when I see that my suggestions for playing with colour have inspired too. My beadwork patterns deliberately don't give any bead colour codes (gasp!). Firstly because not all beaders will be able to source the same beads, (certainly more true when I started than perhaps now that beads can be bought on line). The second reason though, is more sneeky on my part, because I really want to encourage the creative process and get everyone to feel they can play with colour. In class it is always great fun to see the different colour stories, each an inspiration and often the source of unplanned bead buyingas I am tempted by yet another lovely mix.

The most delicious interpretation
of  Nouveau Droplet
I was busy on such a buying mission the other day when a fellow addict leaned over and revealed a Nouveau Droplet Necklace in the smudgiest, dark ink spilled on an old desk loveliness of a colour mix. It made me think of 17th century interiors, oak gall dyes, candle lit wooden panels and worn metal sconces; great colour mixes start their own stories, which is why I find sharing colour ideas such a magical exchange.
Happily she was willing for me to photograph her creation, shown here against the nearest prop we could find in the store, a stack of baskets!

Friday, 19 October 2012

Victoriana in Bead magazine

now that the latest issue of Bead magazine is on the news stands I can show and share the Victoriana floral locket. To create this Winter special magazine, Chloe the Editor invited designers to be inspired by an era, and I got Victorian.. which as y'all know is a perfect fit as I love all things vintage inspiration. I used my oval acrylic windows as templates and took the prettiest snippets from scans of old postcards which were saved by my Grandma. Pretty postcards like these were often posted in the morning and arrived by lunch time! I have one which was an invitation to afternoon tea that very same day, a testament to the power of a penny stamp and a great organisation; I guess they are also the forerunner of our emails and text messages.

Two Victoriana Lockets for Bead magazine
My 'Locket' has room for two images sandwiched between  acrylic windows, so is completely reversible. The project in the magazine give instructions for the embellished bezel, bail and a dainty beady ring, through which you can thread some ribbon to finish off the vintage look.

If you don't have vintage post cards, there are lots of on line sites offering free or very reasonably priced down loadable images, You can also spend a small fortune and many happy hours in craft stores choosing papers and ephemera in the papercrafting section.
Make a matching birthday card and gift
I admit happily to being utterly charmed by anything that is made personal, such as home made greeting cards and small hand made gifts. These will win my heart every time, so I'll definitely be using this design for some presents.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

textured tale

It is no secret that I love all things textile as well as beady, my little book on Loom Weaving is popular with beginners wanting to explore this traditional blend of textile and beading techniques.
I think if you love any craft it is inevitable that the tools to go with it somehow proliferate without you noticing. A quick check reveals that I have six different types of bead loom, plus another three that my lovely dad has made for me over the years. (are you picking up on my autumn cupboard clearing vibe?)
One had the beginnings of a Kerala Bangle on it. This is a loom workshop I have taught many times and continue to offer, I love it because it enables students to explore a loom with a whole mix of materials and really get to know the different processes. It is also a great way to develop a feel for thread tension in a way that won't mess up a carefully counted pattern if you don't hit perfection on day one! and a great way to teach the best ways to work a huge range of techniques in one piece.
last of the summer' Nasturtiums

First, gather together a pile of embroidery threads, flosses, yarns and fibres, some beading thread, seed and accent beads. This part can be a glorious adventure in colour, just heap together your faves and play with the pile until you have a mix you love... or pick out the colours from a picture for inspiration, like this snap of the very last of the Nasturtiums in the garden (I sense a garden tidying session coming on.. what is it about autumn and the need to sort things out and get them straight!).
Or, you can cheat and buy a ready mixed pack of dyed threads (of which I have too many, picked up as impulse buys at shows... oh such clever tempting packaging!)
Section showing woven  thread and
beading on the same warp threads

Next, warp up a loom with beading thread, then get weaving.
Here is a picture of the sample still in the loom which, incidentally, I must get round to finishing; which starts with finding the bag of threads to go with this UFO.
I like to start with a section of old fashioned over and under weaving with embroidery thread, this creates a firm  selvedge, and sets the colour mood.
Next add some bead loom weaving. Keep changing the weaving process, the bead types, weights and textures of fibres and threads. I also like to embellish some of the beady sections, or you can weave in some apertures.
It really is an open invite to have a small scale creative party!

Stack of Kerala Bangle
To finish, weave into a bangle by finishing both sets of the warp threads through the weaving at the opposite end. For a more snug bracelet, end with a second selvedge, then finish the warp ends at each end. Create a sewn fabric clasp (snap fasteners are perfect) or a metal bracelet end, of the kind designed for ribbons.

For a final flourish, add a beady edge, for me it tidies up the transitions between the techniques, and can be anything from a simple whip stitch with a bead on, to a netted edging.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Divine iron inspiration

a mystery to be solved
I love a good bit of door furniture, and it doesn't come more divine than this over the top creation discovered in the Bishop's palace at Wells. I'm also rather keen on that nice muddy paint colour too. What I find delicious about this ornate door handle is that it is utterly beautiful, yet surprisingly uncomfortable to actually use... some fiddlesome door funiture for fine fingered clerics... argh! couldn't help the alliteration there!

I'm finding that I keep coming back to this image not because I want a door like this, but because it is tickling away at a couple of ideas.
The first is for the beady alternative to the metallic bronze, silver or gunmetal, my staple metallics so far. I have put in a request with Miyuki for an antiqued copper (so far they have a nearly OK one but only in size 11 seeds and not the same in 15's)...  most of the gold beads are all just too gold, brash and harsh, so I love the pale as straw colour of the metalwork in my picture. The door paint is another colour I keep seeking. I have just a pinch left, they are matt, mushroom grey and add gravitas to all other colours, but obviously out of production, sigh!

I also return to this image because it's so 'homage to' Pugin. Divine symmetry is snapped off and the keyhole aligned to a gap in the tracery, rather than designed for this particular door... so was this a piece of Victorian Gothic envy? Pugin was responsible for influencing a generation, as architect of six cathedrals and forty churches, whereas this ecclesiastical building had already been standing for 700 years. I suspect that someone might just have sneeked in a few twiddly bits to keep up with fashion.

Finally I love this image because it is singing pendants, bracelets and other design ideas which are safe in my sketchbook until I have beady time and some pale gold beads.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

late summer roses

My little green basket
Late summer is the best time, the warmed earth time, the ripening fruit time, and the very best time to see the last of the roses grown a little bit wild and reckless. Late summer evenings are the time to drink in the scent of roses. So, I was in a junk store the other day (when am I not, given the chance), and came across this delightful Wade Heath pottery ceramic basket. Many years ago I had a Wade Heath pottery rabbit... that got left in a garden, and which I fondly imagine hidden in a wilderness of overgrown weeds.
Technically a Flaxman Wade Heath ceramic. Wade Heath started in 1810, but split in the 1950's, one part becoming simply Wade and producing licensed character ceramics such as Disney and the 'Whimsies' ranges.
My newly acquired basket dates from the 1930's and has no real financial value, you can easily pick up Wade Heath ceramics for pocket money prices.
Who cares, it is a little snippet of history and of a particular shade of green glaze that anchors it firmly in time to it's production date. It is also a green that is quietly calming and allows flowers and foliage to show off.
The roses and hydrangea in the picture are fake! gasp! My dears with the summer we've had most of the roses gave up weeks ago, then ones left are just too brave to be picked.
I am a demon for slipping in a few fake flowers here and there... they are so beautifully made these days enabling you to do that whole, 'The gardener sent these up this morning for the house ma'rm', Downton Abbey type scenario; whilst actually living in a small cottage. It is also a great way to play colouring in when nature is sulking from a summer of rain.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Exhibition piece

So, after telling you how it got started here I can now show and share my finished piece.
The Beadworkers Guild are having an exhibition of works called 'The Magic of Macintosh in Beads' and hopefully my necklace will make the grade. I love the way that the Guild got us all inspired to explore a design theme, then rollup our collective sleeves to have a go.
Pause to mourn the path not taken, elaborate designs consigned to sketch book pages for that 'one day when' and superseded by fresh ideas. Share the fun of the piece I did get time to make.
the design idea on the day

If you recall, my sample was a little triangle, an idea I wanted to get right if nothing else as my 'on the day' one was a bit lumpy.
This sat in my beading box until the deadline loomed, I hate that life is like this but in between were lots of other deadlines and the somewhat glorious excuse that my brain needed time to think it's way around the technical problems I had set it.
First, I really didn't like the bezel, to get a bead count for three sides gave a sloppy bezel that was pulling out of shape. Next, I knew that the sides and edges needed different bead counts to get them to lie flat and in a more crisp triangle shape. I have long loved Rennie Macintosh drawings and thought my colours based on his drawing of a fritillary flower was a good selection, but taking a harder look at his architectural work changed my mind on colours too. So bead it, change it, bead it, change it and million unpicks later I had a triangle motif in the colours of the Willow Tea rooms.

The Willow Tea Rooms, photo by w:User:Dave souza

The May Queen
I also wanted to hint at a texture inspired by the embedded glass beads and cabochons in Margaret MacDonalds panels, and a hint of the graphic lines and zigzags in the interiors of 78 Derngate, created for a man with colour blindness, so unusually stark and graphic.

Once I had the motif finalised, the final necklace configuration was based on the shapes I so love in Margaret's panel called 'The May Queen'. One of three panels for the Ladies Luncheon Room, Ingram Street Tea Rooms.
It is constructed of oil painted gesso on hessian and scrim, set with twine, glass beads, thread, mother-of-pearl, and tin leaf panel; you just sense that she had the best fun getting inventive with these materials! 
I love the long embellishment that the May Queen is wearing on her gown.

the finished necklace
So my final piece, inspired by these uniquely creative people, unashamedly borrows colours and shapes, makes absolutely no claims or pretensions other than as a really enjoyable process to play with inspiration and make something I will definitely wear once it is home again. 
I've loved the process of transferring ideas into my own medium, beads. 
I've also really enjoyed the 'doodling' process, the jotting out of ideas, those paths not yet taken, but which sit and wait, a feast of ideas to explore. Finally, I like that the process has taken my work in a direction I wouln't normally go, and has brought me some new elements that I'm sure will morph into projects I can share.
Now I'm itching to see what everyone else has made. If you're in Northampton, drop by and see for yourself... If not, join the Guild and be part of our next beady adventure.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

refill and recharge

The Isle of  Wight vase
So, beader's block... beading envy... bead fatigue... whatever it was I am now on a 'recharge the batteries mission' to get uber inspired and full of energy for the hectic autumn ahead. I Love my beading and the slight negativity in my last post was less about the gorgeousness of beads and beading and more about the frustration of one who has beaded on demand for too many weeks without pause.
OK so in work mode the interaction of emails, facebook, i-messages, pokes, tweets and general tendency to also pick up the phone for a good old gossip can make the reclusive studio life anything but. Which is lovely, to be so connected, with fun friends, with responsive customers, with suppliers and so on, life affirming and enriching even.

Same vase different daylight
But it's also really lovely to be able to take time out, and come back inspired.
So, while I go recharge, fill up some sketchbooks, get away from the desk to see a horizon...

I'll leave you with this adorable little glass treasure, a handcrafted stem vase from the glassmakers on the Isle of Wight, a wee gifty that arrived in the studio for me a few weeks back. This I fell instantly in love with because it 'is' the sea, and rock pools, and sliding surf, soft watery skies and utterly English sunsets and dawn breaks. I gaze on it often and relish the transience of colour and light.

Friday, 31 August 2012

current favourite

my new favourite bracelet
Sometimes things don't turn out the way you think they will. The introduction of twin hole/duo and then Super duo beads should have been a cause of excitement.
But, for me there was a real stumbling block about the thread showing between the holes if you wanted to 'step up'. By all means call my a fussy so and so... I am. This caused a real hold up for anything other than simple right angle weave designs. I found myself less and less drawn to them, could this possibly be bead fatigue?
Or is it that without the time to sit and really play beading with these little cuties, what I was actually suffering from was too many facebook 'TaDa!' moments from beaders around the globe...  there is only so many times you can mutter Doh! I should'a thought of that! before the ego wants to hide under the bed and not come out!
Anyhoo we all know how the bead envy story pans out, the more you try the bigger that pile of snipped up beady gobbledygook gets on the bead mat!
So as yet another arabesque of beady cleverness arrived in my inbox I'm thinking maybe I've missed the boat on this one and had to admit defeat.
As soon as I had... the pressure was off and I made this bracelet.
That was three weeks ago and I've worn it pretty much non stop, no less than twelve people have asked me for the pattern, plus there are a few more designs that are growing from the simple train of thought that triggered this one. So I guess my new motto is 'If at first you don't succeed, just quit trying.'

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Battle Honours

OK so Battle of the Beadsmith and here I am through to round three... and pitched against my all time favourite piece, and, I know the favourite of so many others. I think the outcome is pretty inevitable, beauty versus the beast so to speak.
We had to post another image showing a different angle, so I had fun thinking where my scorpion might hide out. Here she is lying in wait on some sun dried wooden fencing in the garden.

So to summarise:-
It was the best fun to create and participate, I loved the process of the challenge, I also love the comments and praise that came my way (who wouldn't, honestly?). Would I do it again? hmmmm......
I've noticed that for some folk, there is a kind of competitiveness in beading, a subtle pressure to be among the first to show designs using new products, to get 'new' ideas published, posted and out there... in a way not dissimilar to territorial marking.
As well, there is the constant niggle that if you're not facebooking, posting, blogging or tweeting, you are somehow falling behind in a race.

The 'Enter this competition' pressure is different, if you enter, then it becomes an internalised battle about self worth, 'failure' is inevitable for all but one person... so the art is in keeping this in perspective.
All I can say is that it's been fun, but I've come to realise that, for me, creativity isn't a competitive sport. In the end it's just beads and beads are fun.
Good luck to the souls who battle on into the next rounds!!!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

traditional view

I was on a mission down a country lane today and came across a thing I haven't seen for a very long time. The mission was nothing exciting, picking up a bit of garden machinery that needed a repair... around here, most things like this involve trips to villages where there's a guy who runs a business in a tucked away building. The building usually reveals itself, when you stand and wait for him to write out the receipt, to be probably 15th century with bits definitely a lot earlier... plus you can glimpse some intriguing stone work through the inevitably mullioned window with the adorable 18th century ironwork. But I digress, the view that had me pull over and get out the camera was this:

poppy field
We think it is probably waiting for the film crew to turn up, as on closer inspection the crop is in there too...
We are so used to seeing fields of just one plant, wheat, corn, barley.. linseed which is a lovely dreamy cloudy blue, or oil seed rape which, quite frankly, is an affront of a colour when in flower. But this is how fields must have looked back in the day before intensive pesticides and the application of modern science to crop growing. It's also fair to say we do get a lot of filming taking place around the region.
So having come from the ancient cottage which has seen hundreds of harvests ripen, brought down with the steady swish of scythes and home on carts, this was a lovely sight to see.
That got me thinking about folk and folk songs and the work songs whole communities would know by rote to help create a steady working rhythm, so maybe I should dig around and find a gentle one we can sing along to as we type, or bead.
When I was small, I loved the Spinning song, which my Dad would sing for me, but Ma hated it and said it was a ghost story. Anyway the rhythm is for spinners at the wheel.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Tangerine and duck egg blue

Harmony by Shelley
I adore, I drink in, I cherish. I think my love of colour may have had a starting point here...These  Harmony Dripware ceramics from the Shelley Pottery belonged to my Grandmother and now my Ma.
What they are is really not at all important, how they feel, silky, how the colours glow in different lights, first warm, then cool. How from all the different blends of colour in the range some discerning ancestress was drawn to this delicate and perfectly balanced mix of dove grey, duck egg blue, tangerine and burnt orange. Utterly of their period and yet timeless... these are the completely important things.
I like the way the eye traces their shapes, and how they live together, the comfortingly fat bellied ginger jar, the narrow topped volcano vase and the open throated conical vase, easy colouring book shapes. It pleases me hugely that they can be re-arranged to create shapes and shadows. I probably stared at them, as a tired/bored little girl, in a yorkshire 'best china cabinet' in the parlour, I know my eye often wanders to them as a grown up daughter visiting my Ma.  I've yet to find the beads in these exact shades... maybe I could be invited on a colour mixing trip to Japan?... or maybe they don't exist except in these glazes for a reason. So just share with me the joyfulness of this little bit of eye candy.
detail from ginger jar
Detail from conical vase

inside the ginger jar

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Pink and pretty

Acantha, spiky lariat workshop
So that's really not me at all is it, pink and pretty. OK so the idea is... I wanted to try some new ideas but working in a set of colours outside my 'comfort zone' to see if different things would happen.
First is Acantha (Greek for thorn, the nymph who fended off Apollo too).
The Acantha is a divining rod, a dowsing for happiness lariat. Part of the symbols series, and using lots of lovely Albion Stitch. I also used some adorable 2mm Czech glass pearls and some of the Silver silk chain. Always good to add in new products... plus some of the lovely Czech spikes too.
Go back, 'Symbols series'? yes, a new adventure in Albion and combined stitches is the Symbols series, a kind of continuation of my Treasures and talismans classes. My love of antiquities and story telling combined into one new exciting project for which Acantha, The Time Traveller's Compass, and a few more pieces are a little part... 'exciting no?
Estelle bracelet, sparkly arm candy for fun.      
So having started thinking about what workshops I'd like to be teaching next year, I carried on playing with the pink and pretty idea and came up with (hopefully not too similar to anyone elses?) a really quick and easy bezel that can be worked to capture Swarovski stones of different sizes.... so far a cute little bracelet and necklace with a pendant set, but bound to be worked on some more...
Mostly though I'm happy that the experiment worked, I'll be happy to go back to my preferred colours... but pink is definitely the new accent colour... or maybe a dark plum...
Estelle pendant, variable bezel to fit
different size Swarovski stones.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Sweet Lavender

 We have had a few days of hot sunshine, such a balm for the spirits. I've wandered through my rain ravaged garden, despaired at the ruination of the roses, the jungle of bindweed and found that my lavender bushes have endeavoured to persevere. I wish I had the time to do all the home maker crafts my ma and grandma did so lovingly. On a chosen morning before the sun got high in the sky a table cloth would be spread out in the shade, the cool cream and white ceramic mixing bowls would be set out and the air would fill with he scent of fresh lavender. Our thumbnails turning green as we riffled them down the stems to remove the flower heads.
Once harvested the bowls would be left to air and the contents to gently dry, while busy hands turned tired household linens and scraps of dressmaking fabrics into little sachets.

When I grew up and finally had my own garden a very dear friend brought me ten lavender plants. As Sally Owens says 'There are some things I know for certain, always throw spilt salt over your left shoulder, keep rosemary by your garden gate, plant lavender for luck... and fall in love whenever you can'. More of rosemary another day.

I began making lavender wands just as soon as those plants matured. It starts in the spring with the gradual gathering of ribbons. Some summers I've have mountains of lavender in various stages of the process, come autumn I would sell them and use the proceeds to fund Christmas treats.

Here's how it's done:

Gather lengths of ribbon,
1 meter or more.
Harvest lavender. Bind stalks into
bunches of an odd number.
Allow to wilt, then bend the stalks over, a
gentle twist prevents stalks from snapping.

Wrap the ribbon end to cover the binding thread
then, bring it through between two stalks

Weave the ribbon over and under the stalks
to hide the flower section.
With all the stalks drawn together,
wrap the ribbon around the stalks. 
With the stalks wrapped, trim the ribbon.
Cut two tails to knot the ribbon in place.

Cover the knot with a bow of ribbon scrap
Snip the stalk ends to tidy them.
Make lots more!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Battle ready!

So here we are, the battle of the beadsmith pages are hopping with excitement and packed with thee most stunning and jaw drop gorgeousness from beaders around the globe. I am totally energised, inspired, humbled and intrigued in turn by the contestants entries. It's also great to see that the event is attracting a huge number of followers, and that plans for Battle 2013 are under way.
But back to Battle 2012 and my little bit of beady craziness.
I was so glad to send off the pictures, it was a big relief to say, 'Enough'!
Since meeting the July 10th deadline, I've been deeply touched by some of the ego massagingly kind words people have been posting, it's always so very good for the soul to get a complement.
Battle ready Brooch
Here it is then, my entry...
It's called...
Girl with the Scorpion Corsage
(A costume drama)

Why this piece?
It started with those ideas I shared in my previous postings, about not trying to compete or re-create what impresses me in other people's work. I tried to think about what I really like to make most of all when left alone to play with beads, and it is the figurative and sculptural things, kind of drawing with beads.

I'll be honest, I figured I didn't stand a cat in hades chance if I tried to do pretty... but my piece might, just might, get noticed if I did something a bit unusual. I looked up scorpions, totally grossed out on the close up photo's but the phrase, 'They like to live in arid dusty places' stuck in my mind so the curved bit of the brooch is a hint at dried up flowers. Maybe enough to get to stage two of the battle, maybe not.
For sure, the experience has definitely got me thinking hard about the creative process, and that of really exploring beading all over again!