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!