Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Old friend I hardly recognise

BWG 10th Anniversary celebration necklace
Sometimes my beadwork goes off on travels of its own. This necklace was created for the Beadworkers Guild in 2009, part of a supplement to their Journal magazine, showing different ways to use stone, glass and ceramic donuts, and created to celebrate their 10th anniversary year.
Each designer commissioned for the magazine was sent a selection of beads, crystals and a donut in a 'blind' package.
I got the green package... as editor of the magazine at the time you may stroke your chin, wiggle an eyebrow and ponder, oh yes? your favourite colour? randomness I think NOT! But to make things fair someone else packaged up the beads... so serendipity won out in my favour... no really!
The finished necklace remained with the Guild from then until now, doing the tour of shows and events. When it finally came home, I hardly recognised it as my own work.
Clearly a celebration of all things Peyote stitch and size 11 seed beads. The donut is a bloodstone cut with a slightly facetted surface.
I recall that I had huge fun creating it, longed for slightly different coloured beads and took an age to finish the rope which is worked over a squishy neoprene cord... Now I still like it, but it feels kind of dated, a bit too plain and simple compared to the work I like to create now, but it also has the beginnings of an idea I've gone on to use many times, the linking of elements with lovely cushion shape briolette beads. I found that rediscovering this 'old friend I barely recognised' moment really useful as a way to review my work over the past few years in a new way. I got out some pieces and was able to see developments, and home in on some ideas I'd never had time to explore yet too. On the whole I'm glad to have the piece back home, I have a dark velvety green chenille tunic that will help this piece look nicely medieval next winter when I wear them together.
I photographed the piece twisted round my garden gate so you can see the clasp as well as the pendant, also, I opened the gate so you can just see the lush blue of my ceanothus tree.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

More from the treasure quest

New Albion Stitch 'Ancient Treasure'
I've made a promise to try and post more about the beading... much of what I do 'right now' is for next year, sometimes even further ahead, but these new pieces are ones I don't have to 'sit on', as they are my own experiments. Probably for workshops, they show just one of the several new developments in Albion Stitch which I'm currently working on. They are also part of my on going project about Treasures and Talismans.

I'm fascinated by the way in which we have objects of adornment which have different meanings. Collectively we wear objects like wedding bands, or religious symbols made in metals, these seem to be almost universal ways of publicly talking about our status or belief. Then there are more subtle symbols, insignia, badges, which show an affiliation to an organisation or a collective idea. next are the commercially generated tribal symbols of  logo's, band names, brand names and branded objects like watches, footwear and so on.

New Albion Stitch 'Pathfinder Talisman'
Next, an maybe more fascinating are the objects that have deep significance to just the individual, or the individual and a very few, often family members. maybe a coming of age locket, earrings, graduation gifts, or a unique piece of jewellery passed from generation to generation. Stop and ask anyone about their treasure and they will probably tell you a great story.
There are also objects which we give meaning to in other ways, prayer boxes, charms to ward off evil, attract luck, or jewellery engraved with secret messages.
From the first stone with a hole through it, threaded onto the first piece of braided elephant grass, we have taken simple objects and given them a new significance. Even now, finding a stone with a hole through it is considered by some to be magical luck, to blow a wish through the hole a guarantee of happiness.
My curiosity is piqued by our collective need for some kind of touch stone, how and why these come about and what, as a designer of jewellery I can usefully add to this story.
It is a rich and esoteric theme to plunder and a source of fascination. These two pieces are part of what I'm telling myself has a loose working title of 'Talismans for a Time Traveller', partly because I can dip in and out of all sorts of cultural references, going back in time, partly because I'm not sure yet where this little adventure is going.

D'you like the little cake tin I used as a prop? It is really dinky and quite old. For baking Madeleine sized cakes when it was shiny and new.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Czech spike beads

OK so sometimes it is essential to stop stashing beads and start working with them. It is also really cool to support a great idea and I love the story of Perry Bookstein's creation of these Laura McCabe inspired deliciously spiked beads.
So there I was hopping from foot to foot in the bead shop when I went to pick up my Czech Glass spikes last week. But guess what, I was way too restrained and only bought two packets...  definitely need to go back for more as the ideas are jumping about... what was I thinking two packets!!
Time Traveller's compass
You would imagine that I spend most of my time sitting and playing with beads, but actually it's not that often I get to just bead, so as a special treat this weekend himself watched the cricket and didn't mind a bit that I spent two whole days under a tree in the garden with my bead tray...bliss.

OK so this design I'm calling the Time Traveller's compass... it's part of a series of new pieces based on a story and really the next stage in my ongoing fascination with treasure and talismans. I will get around to posting about this properly one day, it's something I love researching, exploring, and working with as a form of creating adornment...

Meanwhile my design is reversible and uses some adorable Czech crystals along with some swarovski ones too. it's a kind of Talisman for a modern age, a beady compass for navigating life, for me it's also part of some new works using Albion Stitch.. whispers quietly... maybe for book three!! Buy the kit, more materials or instructions only here.

The cord is a beady rope I'm calling honeycomb, it is a variation of netting and works up really quickly.
No more time to blog... I need to go order some more spikes!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

summer is as summer does

Mid May and our plants are in a real muddle, the Ceanothus and Lilac are going great, but my white moss rose which ALWAYS blooms in May is barely in leaf. It's been rain followed by more rain, with a little bit of rain on the side. Between the clouds we have managed to get out for a walk, determined in that oh so british way to enjoy the bracing air soggy kagouls not withstanding!
We went to Kilver Court near Shepton Mallet. Kilver Court has designer outlet stores (no, no really, not part of the plan at all... we are talking Mulberry, Orla Kiely, Cabbages and Roses... seriously expensive even at the discount.. but OK... nice to see), a cafe of the relaxed, you won't be seeing any chips or ketchup in here but you can swim in the coffee cups and browse a newspaper kind of place, but most importantly a beautiful garden, look....

the rockery

Originally a space for workers to grow vegetables in the 1800's, created by industrialist Ernest Jardine.
Later the Showering family (manufacturers of Babycham, and owners of the adjacent factories) installed a grand version of George Whitelegg's Gold Medal winning rock garden shown at the 1960 Chelsea Flower Show.
In the 1990's Roger Saul of Mulberry fashion and Sharpham Park food brands fame, took over the property and installed a parterre... and a dear little Peter Rabbit vegetable garden for local school children to bring us full circle to Jardine's philanthropy.
The Garden is lovely to walk around, with lakes, waterfall, that amazing viaduct as a backdrop and some beautiful plantings... The factory buildings which overlook the gardens are restored, and can be hired as a conference or wedding venue. Lovely. The kind of place, if you lived near, to sit with a good book on summer afternoons... wedding parties permitting.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Magazine reveal

The Summer issue 
I often comment that I'm busy beading, but don't seem to have a huge amount of beading on my blog... mostly because what I'm working on is for a magazine, book, upcoming workshop or event.
The folk I'm working with understandably need the design kept under wraps until it suits their schedule to reveal it.
This is one I simply adored creating and was itching to share it with you way back in February. It's a brand new Albion Stitch design exclusively for the gorgeous magazine Perlen Poesie.
The magazine will also have an article about my work with lots of pictures. It's a huge honour as this is a quarterly magazine, so only four artists a year get a showcase cover... I is most pleased!!
I'm looking forward to meeting many of the magazine readers at the Beaders Best show the team organise in Hamburg... I'll be teaching there in August, I'm so looking forward to the trip.
Once more with feeling!!!
The creative process for this design was made the best fun by the request, 'Your most expressive and voluptuous design please'. What a delightful freedom to be given. 

So how did I grow the idea? I knew it was for the June issue and so in deepest darkest winter I thought of how lovely it would be to walk along a beach wearing a brightly coloured sarong. I experimented with some bits of card to get a 'buckle' shape that I could knot a sarong through... tried it and it works!
Next I looked at some bouquets of exotic flowers...  bet you're thinking.. in midwinter? in England? really? ... yes indeedy, in the dining room of a rather glitzy London hotel where I was attending a meeting, definitely shudder to think about the carbon footprint, but they were truly inspiring.
For the beading I started with the centre, I'd been experimenting with different kinds of bezels for the SS39 Swarovski Chaton and liked this simple variation. It gave me a base to start each petal from and the shapes kind of grew. There are plenty of crystals nestling in the design for added bling on the beach.
I'll definitely be wearing mine this summer... how about you?

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Fierce cat hiding...

We have a new kitty on the block, a neighbours tabby is a fearless feline who is one of the swiftest hunters I have ever seen.
All through the winter I have put fat balls out for the birds, wedging the food on top of the gate posts. I've carried on through the spring as our weather has been so wintery. Now tabby kitty here spent several days at the bottom of the gate, and I thought nothing of it until I saw her catch a Long Tailed Tit.
A masterful achievement as these busy little birds are quick, and seemingly safe at over three feet above her head. It was utterly shocking!!!
I moved the fat balls to a safer location and am happy to report no further fatalities.
Kitty meanwhile spent several more days gazing hopefully at the top of the gate post... then took to sitting on the gatepost. She is quite a character and swats the paparazzi.

one feisty kitteh!

One week on and having given up on the gate post... she now sits inside a hedge, very still, for hours... in the hopes that an unsuspecting bird will come a weeny bit too near.

hidin' n waitin'

Friday, 18 May 2012

Go Fish

Fran's fab fishy wishy
While I was in Daventry at the Beadworkers Guild annual get together,  I ran into my friend Fran Griffith who's Crumpets Farm workshop is a rural  retreat. We don't get to see each other very often and it reminded me to tell you all about my goldfish...
Last year Fran ran a series of workshops based around the inhabitants of a beaded aquarium that her various groups of students had made for a local show.
I fell completely in love with her shimmering beady fish and, lovely lass that she is, Fran invited me to come to a workshop. I say lovely because it's not always easy to welcome a fellow tutor into your class, so I was honoured by the invite.
OK so Fran's fish reminded me of my own pet fish called 'Sunlight on running water.' Yes, I know! but to be fair, the companions he outlived were called Davy Crockett and Hiawatha.
Sunlight was a comet, which is a regular goldfish with an extravagant feathery tail. He lived for 12 years, travelled to various homes in a bucket in the back of my car and would dance up to my fingers whenever I passed by his aquarium. Sunlight's favourite trick was to decorate a frond of plastic weed with tiny pebbles, the very first thing he did after I changed the aquarium water, no kidding. So to bead a memorial Sunlight was an opportunity NOT to be missed if at all possible... plus I was intrigued to see how such a convincing 3d shape is worked in beads.
Underwater beaded installation

Fran's workshop is deep in the heart of Dorset, a purpose built haven with light and space to work in, where the occasional chicken will step in for a visit.
I enjoyed Fran's teaching style a lot, the shopping opportunity in her bead store too, and was able to complete a very realistic goldfish by the end of class.
'Sunlight two' is suspended in one of twelve compartments in my Graham and Green wall cabinet  (see it here), about which I'll wax lyrical another day.
Each compartment has a name plate and I have a special word in each one and that is a story for another day too. Sunlight's word is 'Wish'. Behind my fishy is some gorgeously hand marbled paper created by my dear friend Janet, which I coveted until she gave in and donated it to me.
Below him is some beady coral on a beaded rock left over from some very big underwater beaded installations I created a few years back. Here's a pic of a green one, yes, it's full of water.
At the time it seemed like a really good idea.
my beady octopus on another beady coral rock

Just to complete the watery mood, here is a picture of a wire and bead Octopus I made, inspired by the work of some French bead artists. I saw some photographs of their work many moons ago and kind of remembered in my head, but was never able to find again. Le grande Meaulnes of beading!
I think this technique is mostly used for making beaded flowers, but these people had created all sorts of complex creatures including an articulated Lobster! My Octopus is leaning on another beaded coral and the background is a painting made with strips of coloured paper and fabric.
Back to my workshop with Fran and the outcome is... Every day I can look at my replica of Sunlight, enjoy the memories of an aquatic life well lived and beyond expectations. Thank you Fran for a lovely day, your secret is safe with me.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Beadworkers Guild party time

May means the Beadworkers Guild get together... on alternate years a festival of beading over four days... then in between an event like this weekend, a saturday Bead-in a sunday of shopping and many many hours of chatting and inspiration. I decided to treat myself to a day of beading before setting up my stall for the sunday bazaar. This year the inspiration was the work of  Mr Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his lovely Margaret MacDonald.
Now I'm a weeny bit ambivalent about latching on to an artist or art movement and 'being inspired' specially if it's someone who's work I already admire or a genre that I enjoy. But spending a day in the company of beaders being inspired, has warmed me to the concept.
Carefully thought out display boards for inspiration

First, the Guild had organised some colourful inspiration board, then invited a speaker from a little known architectural gem by Macintosh called 78 Derngate in Northampton. The talk was a fascinating insight into this less well known Mackintosh interior design.

My nearly finished idea

Next, the committee members and volunteers had prepared pieces, some with charts to follow for the less experienced beaders, others to kick start our creative ideas. I was supposed to be among these volunteers... but time ran away with me and all I could present on the day was a nearly finished piece...
Maureen Lord gets clever with iconic motifs

I found the variety of ideas and techniques very inspiring, yes even the simple re-interpretation of roses and grids looked really lovely, like glass mosaics, and among the most worked design on the day by members who didn't feel quite ready to begin to design  in public.

Around the room there were lots of boxes of crayons and sketchbooks being put to good service.
I think my favourite submission was this clever crystal creation by my friend Tracy Clegg, I usually instantly love and covet her work, this piece was so watery and pale and utterly divine!
Tracy's divinely watery rose pendant

So, with all that inspiration to see, you want to know what I did, sigh! I spent a great part of the day not beading, but chatting.
I began a bezel with thoughts of a grid like thing, but the bead count would only divide into three, then I made a boo and what should have been a crisp triangle got rounded shoulders... but do you know what? it was a grand day out just the same!
My experiment which might
be a design one day!

The rest of the weekend wizzed by in a blur of catching up with so many friends, many of whom I only get to see at Guild events. Then a whole day of meeting beaders and selling my kits, books and designs on Sunday. It's always such a lovely experience, fascinating to find out what people want to be beading and yes, rummaging in their goody bags... I have no shame and will delve into any promising looking shopping bags as they go by. I did a little shop myself and will show and share my stash when it is unpacked. For now I'd just like to raise three cheers for the Beadworkers Guild, another brilliant event.
Oh! and did I mention the challenge? every year the Guild has a challenge, all members can enter. This year the beadwork on display was so good! I just wish more folk would enter... and as I didn't myself this year I can only promise to try and do better next year... I'm loving the title so it should be fun to enter... which looks like another watch this space moment.
Meanwhile, if you are in need of a lovely beady packed quarterly magazine, access to a website full of beady info and maybe in need of some beady chums in your neighbourhood... sign on and become a Guild member, they are a fab bunch of people.

I think I just got into a fight!

Find it on facebook too
Battle of the Beadsmith 2012 has just started.
80 bead artists from all over the world, invited take part in a sudden death knock out contest, to be weighed, measured and found wanting, or not, by their creative peers.
There are just three of us from the UK (no pressure there then!), myself Gill Thomas and Lynn Davy. The rules are fairly simple.... bead up something jaw droppingly gorgeous in the next five weeks, then submit your photo's by July 10th and hope for the best.

Set up by Steven Weiss of the Beadsmith to generate a greater awareness of the stunning beadwork being created all over the world.
I'm totally up for this idea and utterly terrified all at the same time. There has been lots of team pep talk, throwing down of gauntlets and general razzamatazz from our American mentor... (thanks Steven, now I'm needing to to the breathing heavily into a brown paper bag thing)... not to mention some downright bead strutting of stuff and showing offyness as contestants post pics of their epic creations... (gosh!)...
So it has finally dawned on me that as I didn't opt out and become a judge early on...but kept my name in the lists... I should maybe stop watching from the sidelines and get involved instead.

I love that there are so many awesomely inspiring pieces of work being showcased right now, on facebook, hopefully in magazines and definitely on blogs the world over... with the promise of more to come as we hunker down to bead up our entries; I also love the infinite variety, whether it be in scale, technique, colour or texture. I love that this says so much about the level of creativity, ingenuity, passion for and dedication to the gorgeousness of beadwork...  which is a good thing, right?

I hate with a passion what agreeing to participate is doing to my head!
competitiveness makes my knees go watery!
For me, beading has always been about the delicious quest to develop an idea, whether it's about the stitches, colours, shapes, beads or all of these. For me it's also usually a solitary journey, tracking down the 'what if's', nailing the narrative, loving the process. My solitude is punctuated with checkpoints of interaction, in class with my students and over lunches or coffees with my beading friends and colleagues, always the feedback is inspiring and essential.
So now I have to go public, but not only public, I have to decide, create and offer up my work to maybe face elimination early on. To try and fail? is it failure? to maybe get a little way along and be bowed out in a later round, affirmation? to maybe (impossible to imagine but someone will) be the last beader standing? is that a guarantee of future success? who knows...

Is it worth it? Hell yeah... um... I think...

An up and coming designer recently asked me how I felt about the pressure that comes along with what we do. Honestly? I go through every emotion, just like everyone else and in the end...
it's just beads and they are just such fun!

My name came out of the hat and I'm paired with Katherine Gezey of the Ukraine who's bead embroidery is simply and utterly gorgeous.

The biggest challenge will be finding the time to create in an already packed schedule, so the alarm clock is set even earlier!!
Wish me luck that I get something lovely finished by July 10th. I'll be back to tell you how it all goes.      

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

DaVinci de-coded

DaVinci on facebook
The fact that it is a Jubilee year means that there are more treats on offer than bunting, street parties and strangely dyed cakes. To celebrate in an entirely different way, a tiny, yet priceless proportion of the Royal collection is making a tour of the UK.
Ten Leonardo Da Vinci drawings are currently on display, for free, At Bristol Museum and Art Gallery until the 10th of June.
Who could resist? I've made the pilgrimage to the Louvre in Paris and seen the Mona Lisa, surprised by her demure proportions, despite all good art books giving precise measurements.
These drawings too are small, which makes their detail all the more breathtaking, you are also aware that this long lived renaissance man had, and continued to have, through is unusually long life, excellent eyesight... which, as I groped in the handbag for the now essential reading glasses was an aspect of his life I envy even now, and in the darkened viewing room an easy explanation for his amazing skill and enduring popularity.
But seriously...
I have always loved the simplicity of his materials, paper dyed with coloured chalk, delicate inked lines.
To choose a favourite is deeply childish, but I was drawn back to the ochre lines of the drawing of acorns on a leaf laden branch several times during my visit. With a page stained with red ochre and an ink of the same hue, every detail needed to describe a branch of oak leaves and acorns is there, no more, no less. So real you could lift them from the parchment, just as he saw them 500 years ago.
There is a lovely book to accompany the drawings, with all sorts of information, the history of both the art and the artist always good to revisit, but in many ways superfluous when you are in the presence of the work itself. If you are near, go see.