Friday, 28 February 2014

inspiration overload

This month I took a long awaited day out. A trip to London to meet up with three dear friends and to visit the Cheapside Hoard exhibition at the Museum of London. Wow! For those of you not in the know, it's a hoard of 17th century jewellery which was found in a cellar.
The hoard. image Museum of London via History extra.
The stashed treasure silently hid, surviving the Fire of London which swept away the houses above it. Listened as the rumble of cart wheels changed to the rumble of motorised vehicles, waited as a thousand conversations took place in buildings that rose and fell above it, until one day in the 19th century a workman's pick broke into the hiding space and light flooded in to re-ignite emeralds and amethysts, exquisite enamels, strangely carved jewels and magical objects of desire.

The Museum of London exhibition team deserve an award for sure, thoughtful touches like suspending the jewellery so we can gaze at it 360. informative and engaging videos, and a slide show to show each piece in huge detail. There is even a little nose high door in a wall where you can peek in and sniff the very perfumes that would have filled the filigree pomanders; so essential in a city teeming with life and open sewers.
I know you'll want to see more so here is a link to History which has a great slide show of the pieces (and where I borrowed the image from). And a link to the museum page here. If you don't have time to visit, treat yourself to the book of the exhibition, it is a fascinating read and of course, packed with images.

The visit was made perfect by being made in the company of friends, and more importantly, friends with creative imaginations and as excited as me to see such exquisite craftsmanship. We each found favourite objects and for me it was the perfection of detail in tiny enamelled flowers on lavishly long chains. These were worn loose and plentiful over board like stomachers that fronted the elaborate brocade gowns of the day.
Jewelled chains. Postcard image. Museum of London

Friday, 21 February 2014

Zen contemplation

In January I went up to London to visit the Pearls exhibition at the V&A, which was amazing and I'm dipping into the book of the same often, for inspiration. 
At the V&A there was also an in the garden area. Created by artist Xu Bing, the installation of huge rocks, water feature, atmospheric steam and a wonderful collection of ceramics, was pure delight to walk around.

To quote the V&A website, 'The John Madejski Garden is transformed into an ethereal utopia inspired by the classic Chinese fable Tao Hua Yuan (Peach Blossom Spring). Written by the scholar Tao Yuanming in 421AD, Tao Hua Yuan describes a land in which people lead an ideal existence in harmony with nature unaware of the outside world. This dream-like landscape is created around the central water feature of the John Madejski Garden, built up from layers of thinly-cut stones collected from five different places in China. Clusters of ceramic houses, each one handmade and coloured to reflect different traditional styles, are placed among the stones. Modern elements such as small LCD screens with cartoon animations have also been introduced into the landscape to represent the co-existence of ancient and modern in contemporary China, and present everyday life. Lighting and mist also change the atmosphere of the installation depending on the time of day.'

To the unknowing visitor hurrying through the area in a light drizzle, slowing, peering more closely, then forgetting the rain... it was a delight. The shoal of ceramic fish, the many tiny figures dotted about the rocky landscape, the humour and simplicity... thank you Xu Bing.

Part of Xu Bing's amazing installation.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Spring is hoped for...

The first tulips have arrived at our local florist, labelled 'Best Tulips' and priced accordingly, but
tempting none the less. These vibrant orange ones are as refreshing as a bite of sun drenched orange, and will make me smile each time I walk past the windowsill. I have them on an old 1930's plate which is chipped but much loved and is the perfect shade of green to keep the 'hope for Spring' mood going.

I've put a big dish of orange and lemon peel on the radiator and can happily report that combination of fresh flowers and citrus scents is doing wonders for the winter blues. I know it is working because I'm reaching for brighter bead colours in vibrant combinations! reaching for Lime Zest and magenta!
The O beads are coming out in more new colours and I've been making lots of 'O Flower' rings and brooches, every time I wear one I get asked to make another for a friend, and as the design is quick and easy to do I'm happy to have the time to gift them.
O Flower, available as a pattern on my website

Friday, 7 February 2014


Jezebel bracelet in metallic gold, olive
and golden shadow crystals
Just before Christmas I was teaching a class in Bonn  in Petra's lovely studio at Das Perlament, if you
find yourself in the area Petra has a great range of workshops running throughout the year and the shop is packed with beady inspiration.
On the day, one of my students arrived with her completed Jezebel's Jewels bracelet from the workshop in Hamburg earlier in the year and I've been meaning to show and share since I got back. For me, it is always hugely flattering to see my designs completed and enjoyed, not least because a lot of time goes into a piece like this bracelet, time shared with me and the beads which is a gift in itself.

Meanwhile, back in Bonn, I photographed the bracelet on a beautiful wooden box in the studio, which gave a perfect setting. If I had time to sit and make one I'd fetch the beads right now as I simply fell in love with the vintage colour combination.
This weekend I was teaching the class again in the UK and it's always fun, so much sparkle! Several students were using stones with new coatings and I had a serious case of crystal envy, followed of course by a serious case of crystal shopping.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Marcia's book is here!

I am touched, honoured, delighted and excited to be included in this amazing compendium of bead
artists; So first a big sqweee... 'Thank you' ... to Marcia DeCoster for including me in an amazing role call of contemporary bead artists.

When my copy arrived, I sat down and...
lost a good few hours!
With the turn of each page there is awe inspiring beading, accompanied by fascinating 'behind the scenes' snippets of the thoughts and emotions that each artist brings to their creations. We each had a questionnaire of thought provoking questions, and the answers make for interesting and insightful reading.
Many of the artists featured are dear friends, some I am getting to know better, and all are designers who's work I admire. Browsing the book is like a morning spent with friends, chatting together about what we love best. It's a treasure album we'll keep forever.

Prideful moment, those Little Owls get everywhere!
You can read Marcia's thoughts and those by more contributors to the book via her blog here.

The book features the work of 30 artists, and while not a pattern book, it has the web addresses for those artists who sell patterns and kits; the online galleries for those artists who work to commission, the bead shops and workshop venues for the artists who have them. It is a colourful book of inspiration and the perfect addition to your bookshelf.
You can purchase a copy on here.
And on here.