Thursday, 28 June 2012

fear and beads

OK so the deadline countdown has begun for Battle of the Beadsmith and I am hanging in (or is that hanging on) to represent myself and my country, important as there are only three of us from the UK. I kid you not, the pressure is phenomenal! I'm loving what fellow contestant Nancy Dale has been posting in her blog... explaining so well that horrible sensation of creating and hating the results, the bleak days of non inspiration and the admissions to self of failure... how familiar is that just now!
I'm hating the endless stream of jaw droppingly gorgeous beadwork coming through via the organiser from contestants, the equivalent of boxers facing off before a big fight and guess what... it works!

So I pose this question, how can creativity ever really be a competition?

Moving on from that...Three cheers and a yeay! to the clever, confident, quick to finish souls who have already submitted, I'd love to know how they silenced the inner critics. In fact someone did comment that the dialogues of how we all got to the end game will be just as fascinating as the finished pieces.

How have I wrestled my inner critic to the ground?, by making deals in my head.
Deal one, I don't do huge... so I won't try to do huge just because I have seen some awesome huge.
Deal two, don't begin to compete! by which I mean, in my head the competition can't exist, I'm beading and creating to tell a story I'd want to tell anyway.
Deal three, accept the frivolity of it piece of beadwork doesn't define me or contain my soul... it's just one piece of beadwork I really enjoyed making...
I hope...
Just a few more tweeks and I'll be done...

Aww who'm I kidding, knees are weak, feel queasy when in the presence of my half finished creation, have no idea how to finish it off and only 9 days to go...
... reaching for the chocolate again...

Thursday, 21 June 2012

leaves are not green

 Frome Beaders and I have been busy doing colour. I remember from my own art school days that one tutor's favourite phrase was 'Shadows are not Grey'... always delivered in what I thought was a rather smirky way, as though all budding young artists revealed their ignorance when reaching for the tubes of ebony and china white. But he had a point, one oft repeated in art and design courses and classes. More recently revisited and explored so accessibly for us all by David Hockney in his recent and fascinating exhibition currently touring.

In another flash back to art school is the vivid memory of one of my friends falling about laughing and declaring that my leaves were 'Heather leaves, nothing like the real thing and always the same.' Fine! huff huff... she had a point but I argue that there's nothing wrong with defining your own style early on.
The reason I'm kind of rambling is that my pocket camera and I are always on the look out for interesting things... and no more so than to prove the point that nature is way more inventive and creative than we ever allow for. I fell in love with these colourful leaves at the garden centre. There will definitely be some beady interpretations, and yes, if leaf shaped, we all know what shape they'll be... Heather leaf shaped, nice pointy ended elispses with a wee stalk and cute veins... spaced at regular intervals of course.

But seriously, I'm loving magenta and chocolate coloured leaves, or raspberry ripple and lime. I also really like the white leaves with dark green sneezes. Or the achingly sombre violet and green with palest cucumber, so 1900's. Go find a leaf and be inspired too.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Some sparkly circles

I've just been reading back though a few of my blog posts trying to find and check a detail... and I notice I are mostly using some words a whole lot more than is interesting. So definitely no more lovely, a bit less of the delicious and divine and more moderation on the sparkly or sparkling. My English teacher would continue, no doubt, to be horrified, her default state when dealing with my written work... bless! In my defence, I long for more time to devote to social media and especially my blog... which I love... but the truth is I usually get the odd half hour here and there, which is not enough time to lovingly craft the lingo, but just enough to show and share the things that are inspiring me.
Simply simple circles
Which promise to work harder and do better, leaves me with the dictionary and thesaurus pestering task of talking to you about a very simple, pendant, which glitters gorgeously.
These are two Swarovski donuts, which have subtle chequerboard facets and a slim profile, similar to the stone cut ones. The bezel is worked in delicas and size 15 seed beads and peyote stitch, all a bit seriously simple. The colours were chosen to match those of the donuts (red Magma) and the silk wrapped cord (Lime green).
I added simple peyote rings to help balance the pendant with the cord. My decision to keep things simple was partly economy; those donuts were hair-raisingly expensive, so I wanted as much of them on show as possible. Partly, because simple is sometimes all you need. I have worn this one occasionally, but the silk wrapped cord is wrapped around some very unforgiving plastic, so this needs to go and be replaced with something more pliable... when I have time... because I know I would wear it a whole lot more.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Day trip to Wells

Cloister, Wells Cathedral
I love going to Wells, the saturday street market is great, lots of really good food stalls too. But this time, we decided to be tourists and visited the Bishops Palace and grounds. How weighted with history are these sheltered and moated grounds. Most of the centre of Wells is like a film set for a medieval or gothic drama, specially f you know which alleys to wander through. The twin towered cathedral is huge and solid from the outside, etherial and timeless inside.
The palace grounds are beautiful, peaceful and calming in the soft English sunshine. There is the little bell that the swans have learned to pull at a certain time, to be dutifully fed through a window above. Or you can go play Robin Hood on the ramparts overlooking the moat and the Bishop's see, as in see all that? it belongs to the church, see?
The Wells pool with the Cathedral beyond
Also in the grounds are the Wells. This is the water source for the whole town.
four million gallons of water a day bubble up in several different spots on the floor of this pool, it is mesmerising to watch. Yes, technically springs, but called Wells in this spot for as long as anyone can remember... undoubtedly a Somerset thing.
So I love the sense of history, I am comforted by the longevity of the buildings, the continuity of worship and ritual, even by the stories on the memorial plaques that bring the dead back to us as real people who strived and achieved, or not, just as we do. But just tickling away like a naughty whisper is... why did they build the church on top of the only water source in the region... and the awful feeling of knowing exactly why.
Back in the sunshine, we sit and enjoy coffee and I doodle some motifs to add to my collection and the story about talismans. Here are two of the pieces that began the idea.

I was educated in a convent school, which I loved and hated in equal parts. One summer then nuns were told to hand in their large ornate and very gothic crucifix pendants, which were to be replaced with smaller far more modern brushed steel crosses that were almost not crosses at all. I could see that some nuns were profoundly upset to loose their iconic talismans. Not comfortable with having to build a relationship with a new symbol. This momentary glimpse into lives which held so very few possessions gave me an insight into the subject that has become a fascination in my work.
Eye for Scrying
Scrying Compass

One of these two pieces will be a workshop next year, I've worn it a lot and have finally resolved how to offer a class without making everyone french knit a cord with very fine crochet cotton (! labour of love alert!), as I explore this theme more the shapes for the symbols resolve and rearrange. This will be a fun class too as we get into multiple layers and some really cute beaded end caps.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Cute bird

trio of Cute Birds
"Ahhhh!!! Cute bird!" is what my friend Rebecca said when she saw the 'Easter chick' version of this beady bird at the bottom of my work basket... 'Make me a blue one, I am definitely wanting a blue bird of happiness'.  It seems that, despite my best efforts to be a serious 'artist' in pursuit of worthy ideas... what people really want is something cute and loveable and preferably easy to make.
Serious ponderings are put on hold, while I sort Cute Bird into a step by step pattern, some colourways. Further delays while I change my mind, bead up the umpteenth sample, panic over how to finish off the design...
... and breathe... and shoulders down...
I sit a row of finished Cute Birds on my display table at a workshop I am teaching and am Soooo relieved to hear, "ahwwwwh!!! look at dat Cute bird!" a few times through the day.
Add caption
Next, my bead group adopt the design and work Cute birds to celebrate all sorts of special occasions in all sorts of lovely colours, which is how I make sure what I thought might be a good idea... really is a good idea.
So now it is time to take fully fledged Cute Bird to the open window, or more practically, send the final draft to the printers and put the pattern, kit and materials packs into the webshop.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

red flannel

Sandy's cute flannel sets
I love a simple thing done really well. These are cute pairs of hand crocheted flannels or dish cloths. Made from purest cotton in adorably retro colours, who could resist! I found them in a lovely craft market which is held once a month at the Cheese and Grain in Frome, Somerset. Sandy, the creative force behind the lovely brand of Padleigh Corner also has a folksy store. 
OK, so you can sense a theme when I tell you I next climbed Catherine's Hill in Frome to visit the lovely Zoe Constantine at Bead Bazaar where I found exactly what I was looking for... which I usually do as when she's not busy selling sparkles, Zoe is off travelling to source more gorgeousness. On the way back down the hill I stopped off to visit at Millie Moon which is the kind of haberdashery that stitchy fingered folk's dreams are made of. I bought the piece of fabric you can see under my lovely flannels... for no other reason than I love the colours and the pattern. 
It is currently folded up on my desk, but I'm hoping it will become part of something lovely one day soon.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Vintage chintz

Spiral Garden
Sometimes things are really crazy simple... when up till now you thought they were complicated. OK so one of the top all time fave designs that people like to buy is called Spiral Garden. It's a double helix spiral with a daisy chain decoration...
plus I show you how to join up double helix rope to make a continuous loop for bangles and necklaces. I love this design, I've made myself and my friends lots of different versions to wear over the years. It is genuinely a constant source of happiness for me that other people really love it too.

So there I was trying to work out an idea, and hit upon the most simplest ever way to make a garland of beady leaves and flowers spiral, without even trying. Gasp! I was so excited and eagerly tried it out on my 'not very good at beading' tester...
Aww! heartless you I hear you splutter into your coffee. No, not at all, she's a nearly beginner and loves to try out my designs and is perfect because she shows me all the places where I'm just assuming you'd know how to do stuff, which is really easy to assume if you already know how to do it... Oh c'mon, I pay her in beads too!
She loved the pattern too, which is sometimes how a new design is born.
Summer Garland, vintage pink
I've called it Summer Garland, inspired by Garden fetes and country weddings, cream teas on mis-matched china, and time worn favourite floral cotton dresses. You can see that once I had the design sorted out (the original sample, for reasons I won't get into, was bright yellow, navy blue and orange), I just fell in love with mixing up some retro inspired colour combinations.
So come and join the garden party, Summer Garland is available as a pattern, as a kit in vintage pink or vintage blue, and with additional materials packs too.
Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy

Monday, 4 June 2012

Button Love

simple bezel on a mother of pearl button
There are buttons and then there are little round works of art that simply should not hide in a button box. You can fairly confidently take it as a given that I have a stash of buttons. I will wax lyrical over them another day. Today I'm showing you just one really beautifully smoothed and carved mother of pearl coat button. I found it at a flea market, lurking among some frighteningly garish plastic buttons, with a broken shank. I rescued it for the princely sum of 50p and the promise of a new life. Because the back of the button was a bit uneven I attached it to a backing with a beaded bezel.This also gave me something to attach a brooch pin to without having to break out the ...whispers... g.l.u.e..., or as my chums in the Guild refer to it... 'the G word'.

In the spirit of recycling and the absence of a really good commercial equivalent, I use plastic from the side of a milk carton... it is just the right thickness to support a bit of bead embroidery, but thin enough to be fairly easy to stitch through... it also survives if your brooch accidentally ends up in the washing machine... which is why I don't use cereal box card any more.

Sew the brooch pin to one side of the plastic, the base rows of bead embroidery to the other, lining things up so the pin is a wee bit above centre so the brooch will lie nicely. Then apply a piece of Ultra Suede to cover up the stitching (I cut two weeny slots for the ends of the brooch pin to fit through, and yes a dab of the G word works a treat at this stage. trim it all flush to the embroidery and finish off the edges with a row or two of beading.

Button love in a different place
The bezel is a simple peyote ring, the edge of the backing has a row of stitching to hold it all together, which is hidden with a row of double Delica beads embroidered in place, then lots and lots of little beaded leaves which start and finish just under the Delica beads. I kept the colours really simple, and the bead types quite plain too, originally made for a quite sombre event, I find I wear it often because somehow the colours have a chameleon quality.
The first photo shows my Button love brooch nestling in a new Hebe I've just potted up, it's called 'Heartbreaker' and is a lovely vivid magenta with cream and soft sage green varegation. The second picture shows the pin hanging from a nail on a stone wall. I love the way that this paler setting brings out all the sand and creamy coloured beads I used, whereas the other one really brings out the dark maroon beads.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Inspiration from my garden

At long last we have had a week of almost uninterrupted sunshine... my garden is so happy... with the exception of my 'always flowers on my birthday' white moss rose, which looked suddenly very ill. My dad was quick to tell me, 'THIS is NOT an omen!!! just a tired rose plant!" So with huge courage I have cut it right back to the base, where I can see that our epic rains have simply soaked the old wood rotten through. It might come back, it might not... I had huge affection for the plant, the scent was heavenly and restorative on many a difficult day... but everything changes and nothing is forever.
Meanwhile... the Ceanothus is a riot of blue and positively roars it is so full of bees when you stop and listen. It is glorious, and deeply patriotic just for now, as we brace ourselves for a long weekend of flag waving and patriotism to celebrate Queenie's Diamond Jubilee. Equally regal and in full bloom is my lilac, it is one of those very dark purple ones and it is sorely tempting to pick armfuls to put in a jug on the table.
Lush Lilac
I have resisted as the flowers drop so quickly... instead I have been picking the unusually early 'Forget-me-Nots', these I press to go on top of my beeswax blended thread conditioner which I wrote about here.
This year the flowers are a lovely size and colour and in great abundance up and down the lanes near my house. I leave far more than I pick... but this year I need to make sure I re-stock as a well known beading magazine is going to be featuring my thread conditioner in the autumn and who knows, there may be a rush of customers.

I have a simple wooden flower press which my lovely dad made for me when I was very small. It was fashionable to press flowers and then mount the dried flowers into pretty arrangements to make cards and pictures, I had several lovely books by Penny Black, who I'm delighted to see is still creating gorgeousness with textiles and the occasional pressed flower in Cornwall.
I have her to thank for my enduring habit of making bowls of home made pot pourri and a love of all scented plants instilled long before I had a garden of my own.