Saturday, April 13, 2013

Bead Soup Blog Party 2013 - Polychromatic Spree

So, this is my first year participating in Lori Anderson's Bead Soup Blog Party, and it's been a real adventure. I've encountered new materials, colour schemes and textures, and adapted a bunch of old favourite tricks and techniques.

Agata, my partner this year, is a polymer clay genius, and she sent me a couple of truly gorgeous handmade focals. Faced with these, I did what I did best and panicked: I'd known I'd be working with a focal bead, but my normal technique of attaching a jump ring to one end and threading it onto a chain obviously wasn't going to cut it for a project like this. Okay, that was fine. I could cope. Yeah.

Ideas for each of the focals hit me more or less immediately and more or less simultaneously, but several weeks of dithering about the materials and worrying about the details ensued. I looked, I shopped, I worried, I shopped some more, I made at least six pieces utterly unrelated to the challenge and then I pulled my head out of my backside and got on with it.

Here are the finished pieces: I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoyed making them.

The yellow teardrop focal practically screamed to be a pendant, but I had a couple of concerns: firstly, that the light weight of the polymer clay would affect the drape, and secondly that it was just too obvious. I've always loved making big elaborate hair accessories, and this seemed like a natural alternative. I've teamed it with the faceted pink stone Agata sent me (I know these as Brazilian rubies, but they seem to have a lot of names) and aragonite, which I bought in specially as I wanted something relatively matte so the textures wouldn't war. To get neat edges on the barrette, I used glass magatamas which have since become my go-to bead for finishing hair accessories. Oh, and there's matching pink and citrine earrings that remind me of the rhubarb and custard-flavoured sweets you used to get when I was a kid.

Next up: the indigo doughnut and the Tibetan silver clasp. The clasp design is a favourite - I actually sent Agata an identical one, which led to a few moments of cognitive dissonance when I unwrapped my parcel! The choker is comprised of a double row of dyed amethysts (I deliberately sought out dyed beads for evenness of colour) held in position by frosted red Miyuki Tilas. I experimented a lot with different band designs for this, but in the end I decided to keep it simple and let the focal sing. Aren't those tiny leaves adorable? They remind me a little of the Black Rabbit scene in Watership Down, except, um, without the graphically-animated rabbit death, obviously.

...Moving swiftly onwards...

Finally, a bonus piece. The most perplexing items Agata sent me were a couple of three-ring silvertone connectors. It honestly wouldn't be a lie to say I lost sleep over what to do with these - the holes seemed to run the wrong way, and no matter how often I looked at them I didn't have any idea of how to make them useful. It's one thing not to particularly like a bead or component, but these were actively taunting me. In the end inspiration struck at 6am, in the form of the question I wonder whether they'd tessellate? Three hours and some unladylike language later (threading seed beads into hoops on wire is always rage-inducing), the answer was an emphatic yes. Of all the pieces I've made, I suppose this one is closest to my normal style - the haematite/amethyst/opalite combination is something of a staple for me, and I felt able to use neutrals and metallics in a way that might not have worked with the other pieces. As with the others, however, it was still a learning experience and still felt like a creative step forwards.

To see what Agata made from the beads I sent, check out her blog. I've been there already, and as always, I'm in awe of her creativity and technical skills.

Thanks to Agata and to Lori, and I hope to see you all next year!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Teardrops (In my eyes)

I'll be honest here; I don't often visit the local craft superstore. My official line on this is that prices are high and that they'd rather sell you a pre-designed project than inspire genuine creativity, but the main reason is that I'm too lazy to walk half a mile uphill out of town to the industrial estate by the railway station. Normally, therefore, I only make the hike when I'm feeling creatively stagnant and need to actively look for materials that inspire me. Continuing in the confessional theme: I'm also a materials snob. There, said it. I like my semiprecious stones, and barring seed beads and spacers everything else tends to seem just that little bit inferior. With all this in mind, here's a series of four necklaces I made from Gutermann Czech glass teardrops I bought from the Hobbycraft clearance bin at a pound a piece. The colours are luminous, they make up quickly and easily and they've drawn more compliments at work than anything else I've made in ages. They're around 17" long each, so they sit nicely on the collarbone where their relative delicacy works in their favour. Hopefully they'll do well as cheaper pieces on my craft fair table, but if not, they'll make great gifts or nice additions to my work wardrobe.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Bead soup!

My bead soup arrived from Poland today - thanks Agata! I already have a couple of projects in mind for these. Can't believe the detail on the polymer clay focals, either!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Getting back in the swing...

Looks as though I need to work on the layout for this thing, but that can come later. For now, though, here's a quickie bracelet I made this morning. My normal beading habit is to work out of a cereal bowl on the corner of the computer desk - our flat is small, space is at a premium and, critically, I've never been capable of separating my beading addiction from my online chatting addiction. When I design, I tend to tip a bunch of materials I think might work into the bowl and then see what connections I can make. The upshot of this is that at the end of any given project, I have a bowlful of unused beads that need sorting and putting away. Sometimes, it sits there glaring at me for a week or more. The bracelet below isn't so much a project as an attempt to not have to put my toys away. It's all fairly obvious, but for the record: haematite rounds and hoops, tiger eye rounds, 24k gold-plated faceted delicas and the ones in the middle of the hoops are actually garnets despite what my camera has to say about it.

Bead Soup Blog Party 2013

Hello to any new visitors! As you may or may not have noticed, this hasn't been updated since 2009. This is because I've largely moved my beading activity to my tumblr, as being quicker and easier to update. Still, I haven't been to blogspot in a while and now I return, I find that it far less faff than it used to be. So, who knows, I may set up residency here too, with the caveat that when you give me a huge blank screen to type into I'll invariably ramble like a very rambly thing. In the meantime, here's a (reasonably) recent picture of the kind of stuff I do.