Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Somerset wildlife

Somerset woodland
Inside the enchanted wood
Sometimes, life can exceed expectations in the best of ways. A few weeks ago I went to spend a day with the Quantock Beaders. They meet in a hall on the edge of beautiful woodland. I love to arrive early so I can talk a walk through the woods before class.
Quantock Beaders discover a new bug

This time we were making the glass beetle design, Quantock Beaders are special, they have a huge membership and I was more than a nadge worried when I got the call to prepare for about 40 students. We bead artists can be sensitive folk and usually anticipate 15 in a class, and the beetle has some intensively fiddly moments. My fretting was, as it transpired, entirely without foundation, because the Quantock gang create a brilliant atmosphere which makes teaching them a lovely experience, no really... and they teased me for panicking!

So there we were in the beautiful woods creating creepy crawlies, and all around us the trees were waiting to exhale the first shades of autumn, ripe blackberries and scatterings of beechnuts a sure sign that the seasons will change, ready or not.

Each one a little jewel
At the end of class, I suggested that once all the beetles were finished, the group should take them out and photograph them. The woods border the Hestercombe estate famous for it's gardens and I suggested it might be fun to show the gardeners the new genus of beetle hatching in the undergrowth.
I was so delighted when the girls sent me these pictures of their colourful beetles, everyone in class was able to finish their creation, and for me, it's a real treat to see so many colour variations together.
Can't wait for next years class!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

October butterflies

Autumn inspiration for the
October butterfly
After a gloriously sunny summer, we are being treated to a beautiful autumn of crisp bright days.
Perfect gardening weather, and somehow, it doesn't seem so bad to be reaching for the jumpers and socks, as long as it isn't raining...yet. It is the time of year for clearing up and cutting back, for bonfires and the crackle of drying leaves and seed pods, for long walks through the woodlands in search of hazelnuts and blackberries. Everything still in abundance a little later than usual this autumn.
On the beading mat this week has been the October Butterfly, I had lots of requests for the raggedy butterfly that accompanied the Scorpion. Like usual, it took me a while to re-trace my steps and find both the thread paths and the story for this little design.
Original butterfly left, October butterfly right
October butterfly celebrates the turn of the season, misty mornings when cobwebs are turned into filigree lace, sparkling with droplets of dew. When the first hint of frost bites the air. Days that shorten into dusk too soon into evenings scented with woodsmoke.
October butterfly
sparkling on a party dress

While beading my thoughts create a history. This butterfly seemed to get steadily more vintage looking, a perfect candidate for the 'found in a trunk in the attic' idea that seems to run through my imagination... a little treasure that holds clues to a magical story...

One upon a time...

October Butterfly is now available as a downloadable pattern, as a kit or as a printed pattern.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

sharing and learning

The new buzz word is all about sharing...
I'm busy working on Albion Stitch book three for a publisher I have always wanted to work with, it is so exciting that I have finally arrived at this point. I have had quite a journey to get here. With my peers discussing sharing, I thought I'd tell the story...
When I took the simple picot and pushed it around into new shapes and patterns it seemed logical to give each part of the stitch, and the rows in between a name. This created a simple shorthand language as a way of describing the ways to re-create the stitch patterns. I gave it a name, Albion Stitch. Next I wanted to share what I'd done with the beading world, so I published the books. Anyone who has ever sat down to write a beading pattern will know that to write a whole book takes many months, and to finance the publishing of one is scary!
But I was in love with the new language and all the possibilities so much that it was fun to take the risks. It was also huge fun to teach the stitch, and to watch students, even beginners, reach for different beads and within a couple of hours start asking, 'what if?' and experimenting... not something I'd experienced when teaching other stitches.

I make it very clear in the introduction of the first book that 'If you are familiar with beadwork techniques you will recognise the elements of Albion Stitch: Picots strung together through the tips with the option of a single Peyote Stitch row to create different effects'.

As the books gained in popularity I began to receive requests from designers to use the stitch in their work and to publish designs. At first I asked if they could wait just to give me time to make my investment back and give the books a chance to sell first. Most were lovely about it and held off. Then I asked for a little more time as I felt I still had some more techniques with the stitch I wanted to publish.

My work also created some stormy responses, and some of those I didn't handle very well at all... which is where, I think, a discussion about sharing starts... because at first I really didn't want to share my baby!
Once or twice I was told about classes, one was lifted out of my book and the conversation went, 'Why did you publish a book if you don't want people to use the designs?' and me patiently explaining that lifting something out of a book and using it to make money is just plain wrong and would they do it with other books too? There were also the, 'Oh I've been doing that for years and it's just fringing, it's my work and just because it looks like something in your book, it's not'... Which of course, is reasonable in one way, and an uncomfortable blurring of the rules for both parties in another. Then there was the 'Oh you can't copyright a technique', No you can't, but you can develop one beyond what has gone before, and name the innovation, and surely then you're allowed to be known as the person who did?

I know that picots are not new, I really do! I also know that of course somewhere, sometime, someone will have played around with the same processes, may even have taught a few. This has been pointed out to me, sometimes gently, sometimes not. At best when there is the caveat that what I'm doing is at least fresh and interesting. At worst when it is dismissive to the point of denying me my creativity.

So there came the time for a really long hard think, because the run in's were debilitating, hurtful, and turning me into the person I didn't want to be. I thought about my ego and yes I did a little foot stamping and told myself that people might well have done a bit, but they left it right where it was for me to pick up and run with it, and boy did I run, and boy did it make a few cross!
I thought about the fascinating discussions I'd had in classes across the world. Gently and soothingly  the continuous trickle of enthusiastic emails from beaders who had bought and worked through my books. Slowly I wondered how to take the next, inevitable and only logical step:
Just let go...

Which is how I began the new journey for Albion Stitch, a website where I could share the technique as I've developed it. To invite designers inspired by the work I've already laid out to show and share; a blog where I could share links to their pages and to show students works and have a gallery. Yes it would be OK to have links to buy my books and patterns; but there would also be free patterns and an open invitation, truly and honestly open, to pick up the ball and run with it so the fun could begin all over again. A calm filled me up at the thought of giving out being so much more fun than what felt like defending a sandcastle with the tide coming in!

So, albionstitch.com is up, growing slowly because I'm no great shakes at website building and there are weeks when I search for a way to code a page so it will show what I want it to... beyond frustrating, but steep learning curves are. I've got a free pattern or two ready, sent them out to beaders to have an explore, in the hopes that images will come back of their pieces for the gallery.

In the end, what would be glorious would be for Albion Stitch to quietly slip into the dialogue of stitches every beader has in their repertoire as a way of talking about picots, or laced together fringing.