Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Toho'd again

Toho 2014 Design Challenge
Last year was my first entry into the Toho Challenge and I ended my post about it with high hopes for the next challenge.
Here are the challenge beads that arrived...  
I found myself staring lovingly at the delicious array of bead shapes, tempered with anxiety, as they were in my, probably, least favourite colour mix ever. So I did a terrible thing... I ignored the box of beads,  telling myself the muse would strike...

Toho's photo of my Prom Queen Corsage
As the weeks ticked by, it was time for the bracing talk to self about being professional, stepping up, rolling up the sleeves... I love colour, I revel in it, I play subtle games with colour. Even so, my fingers twitched to separate the colours into two groups, the pink and purple with maybe the orange: The iris blue and browns with maybe the orange, but all together? still not 'me'! The challenge is to use as many of the beads as possible so culling fifty percent wasn't an option.

I looked at many pink and purple things with hints of orange and cold dark blue... drew out designs... started and stopped... and if anybody is hoping for a magical recipe for how to overcome personal challenges, be warned, this so isn't it... buckle up for a bumpy ride!

With the deadline fast approaching and an agreement to hand the finished bead work over to Team Toho at the Bead and Button show, my hugely elaborate collar of imagined loveliness seemed less and less achievable. Windows of beading opportunity got filled up with pre-show preparations and as I boarded the flight to the USA I snuck on crochet hook and thread with the hopes of beading a rope while I hurtled through the sky.
Which as it grew, I liked less and less.

One side of the corsage has a flower
So in the end, I was beading in my room, after classes, through most of the last possible night, to finish what became a corsage for a prom queen.

Toho beads are truly great to work with and I managed to include some of each size and shape, promising myself to purchase some of the gorgeous colour lined and metallic finishes to add to my stash. I'm already a fan of the CzechMates beads that make up the shaped beads in the challenge pack; love the two hole triangles, possibly my favourite among the many new beads that have appeared recently; tried petal beads for the first time and added them to the shopping list too. When beading under extreme pressure, sometimes the ideas flowed thick and fast.
I wished I'd started sooner, but truthfully, some of those seat of the pants ideas are morphing into new designs which never would have existed without the stress.

The other side has leaves
On deadline morning, there was just enough time for a quick photo session in my room. Who knew a toothbrush glass and hotel duvet would be such nice props...
As I handed over the finished piece, with the creative doubt and insecurity record of 'What were you thinking! this is not great! what have you done!' running in my head... a very well known designer who's work I admire greatly was passing by, grabbed my piece, tried it on, gave a twirl and whispered... 'ooh I LOVE it!'...
and suddenly... it wasn't so bad.

Treat yourself to some gorgeous eye candy and see how the other designers interpreted the challenge, completely inspiring. In each piece the colour mix looks truly lovely.
Thank you Toho for the gorgeous beads, the challenge, the opportunity... and the personal bead lessons learned.
I'm deeply honoured that my prom corsage is now on display in Japan, and profoundly hopeful that I'll be included again in next year's challenge. What ever the colour mix, bring it on and I'll definitely be starting as soon as the beads arrive!

Curtain call on the wrist corsage

Monday, 15 September 2014

Bright Stars with beads

Printed cotton from 1860
 from PastCrafts Etsy
It is no secret that I do like a bit of vintage, and the afore mentioned film Bright Star has some wonderful costumes... which led me to revisit 19th century printed textiles in all their dainty detail.
Then came the arrival of a new bead to play with, this time the Dragon Scale bead, next in the series of beads developed by my lovely friend and bead artist Sabine Lippert. There is no end to her inventiveness and I am enchanted by the Dragon Scale, a tiny flat diamond of sparkly glass with a hole at one end. With the textiles as inspiration I was soon playing, and I confess that more urgent tasks were completely ignored while I had a play with my new favourite bead.
Dragon Scale bead single strand bracelet
The beads slot neatly together to make little constellations and flowers, of course flowers. The first design is BrightStar, and can be worked as single strands of flowers, or garlands, or for a longer project, as wider cuffs.
ZigZag Garland bracelet

The downloadable pattern is available here. Or choose the printed and wait for the post version here.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Bright Stars

Have you ever watched Jane Campions beautiful film Bright Star? all about the last few years of poet John Keats and named for his quietly passionate poem thought to describe his relationship with Fanny Brawne. It's no secret that Keats died of tuberculosis, in Rome, at only 25. But I was so caught up in the colours and imagery of the film that I forgot, and so wept at the ending!  What I love most about the film is the artistry of the film maker. Go watch it, if only for the colours, the interiors and the fluttering butterfly metaphors.
John Keats featured large in my school life as the one who penned the interminable poem 'To Autumn', which we had to memorise and recite. We had ancient poetry books printed with f's instead of s's, sadly this poem always began, 'feasonf of mifts and mellow fruitfulneff'... Perfect recall of the lunch hour spent writing lines as punishment for pronouncing it just as it was written. So thank you Jane Campion, for Bright Star and the prompt to go back and revisit Keats poems with an adult eye and open mind.
To celebrate the onset of this year's season of mists; and despite the loss of summer, I love autumn for the fruitfulness and the rich harvest of inspirational colours; I went to the local farmers market to stock up on provisions and found a new trader selling gorgeous bunches of flowers from her garden. I fell in love with these darkly bronzed sunflowers and she wrapped an armful up for me in brown paper tied with raffia. They glow fiery bright with the sun shining through them and sit darkly sinister in the evenings. I'm not sure of the variety name, but she told me they flower plentifully through the summer and autumn and are a good cutting garden plant to have.

I've travelled a lot this year and have more journeys scheduled for next, so my garden is best described as an overgrown wilderness.  I love gardening in the autumn, and building bonfires, so if you see woodsmoke trailing up from our valley it will be me having fun and making good a year of neglect.