This post is going to get very long, very quickly, so I'll start with the really important stuff so it doesn't get lost along the way.
Firstly, the most important thing of all: my partners - Lynn Jobber of The Creative Klutz, and Jackie Ryan of Kydo Jewellery. They're both very talented, and I know they'll have come up with some beautiful pieces for you to admire. I honestly felt slightly overawed when we first got in touch, but now the dust has settled I'd like to think I've done justice to the gorgeous materials they gave me - you can see the original soups in the post below this one.
Two full soups is a lot of beads, and I made a lot of pieces. I know people have a bunch of blogs to get round today, so what I'm going to do is post a couple of group photographs to give a general idea of what I'm up to before I discuss each piece in more detail. That way, if anybody's short on time they can take a quick look, hopefully say hello and move on without having to hear about my design considerations for every pair of earrings.
So, without further ado...
Want to know more? Keep reading.
This was the first piece I made for this year's challenge, and it may still be my favourite. In the fortnight or so leading up to me receiving my soup from Lynn, I'd fallen head-over-heels in love with hexagonal netting - it's simple, it's versatile and you can dress it up or down as much as you want. Oh, and it looks like flowers. What's not to adore?
Lynn's gorgeous ceramics were a million miles from anything I'd ever worked with before, but dammit, I wanted to live up to them. The big shapes and bold contrasts made me think about cartoons and tattoo designs, and I knew I was never going to get away with being timid on this one. Out came the hexagonal netting, therefore, in the form of fifteen individual flower links that eventually got stitched together with the ceramics, some glass druks and a silver-plated heart clasp to echo the focal.
When I look at this piece, I feel proud, I feel brave, I feel competent. It's a good feeling, and it's one that has permeated my entire BSBP experience this year.
Lynn sent me a lot of handmade materials sourced from Etsy, including this beautiful copper toggle clasp. Once again, I ran into my usual problem - that of scale. Partly it's budgetary constraints, partly it's because I'm naturally quite self-effacing, but I'm not used to making the really big, showy pieces.
Oddly enough, in the end I dived right back into a couple of my beading happy places - gem chips and rainbows. Top to bottom, we have amethyst, apatite, jade, citrine and some of Jackie's gorgeous almandine garnets. It's stupidly heavy, was fiddly and frustrating to make up and requires a far more elegant neck than mine.
I still kind of love it, though.
Since I was introduced to Jackie, we've been in more or less daily contact. I love her outlook on life, and I love the way our beading styles are poles apart in some ways but remarkably similar in others. I love Swarovski pearls and gem chips, and I feel on comfortably familiar territory with them. I teamed Jackie's pearls and aquamarine chips with aventurine, malachite, silver plated spacers and about half a reel of loom thread, and this was the result. After the design challenges I faced with the previous two necklaces, this 54" long piece was a reminder to myself that sometimes it's okay to just relax and do my thing.
The beautiful blue-green leaf here was made by Jackie's daughter Lara, and as usual, I found myself suffering from horrendous focal anxiety. Not really much to say about that; I dithered, obviously, and worried, and took the leaf and the lampwork beads to Hobbycraft to pick seed beads that I thought would match and then decided didn't match and then concluded probably did match after all. It only really came together when I decided to surround the pink Swarovski pearls with blue topaz chips, and the colour scheme seemed to fall into place.
I finished it off with the handsome gold-plated S-clasp Jackie sent, and I like the final result - I think it would make a nice addition to a fairy costume, maybe.
One final necklace - I made the pendant last week using an opalite round and the blue lamp glass heart Lynn sent, but couldn't for the life of me work out what to do with it. Inspiration struck early this morning, when I snatched up some of Jackie's hand-dyed silk ribbon and eventually found a suitable clasp. Simple, I know, but I'm not sure it needs to be anything else.
One quick bracelet made from the Ugandan paper beads Jackie sent, plus some little serpentine rounds and Tibetan silver tubes taken from the charity shop necklace I dismantled to send Jackie her tree agates.
Hair accessories now, and there's a lot of them; give me something that looks as though it has to belong on a necklace, and nine times out of ten I'll try and put it on a hair accessory. To reiterate: this is because focals make me nervous. First, a couple of hairpins made from focals donated by Lynn and Jackie respectively.
Not the best-lit photos in the world, unfortunately, but both of these were stitched into place. The top one features a Swarovski fire opal round, while the bottom one has amethyst and goldstone accents - I was forced to resort to Superglue and I feel like such a cheater! Either of these would tuck in nicely at the top of a bun, I think.
I adored the lampwork headpins Lynn sent me from the moment I saw them, and I thought they might look nice as decoration on a gem chip barrette. Here I've used smoky quartz to highlight the rich reds of the glass, and added a bit of copper scrollwork made on my trusty but woefully-underused wire jig.
Wrapping and trimming the headpins was the single most terrifying part of my Bead Soup experience this year, hands-down; I knew if I messed it up they'd be unusable. In the end, all I could do was control my breathing and press on through the fear.
...I've bought myself more lampwork headpins as my post-party beady treat.
Jackie sent me some gorgeous vintage brass chain; it's heavy, it's handsome and it's ludicrously tactile, so I had it on my desk and was playing with it a lot. Chain is yet another material that's outside my usual beading repertoire; I'm dimly aware that you can attach it to clasps and focals and hang stuff off it, but the subtleties escape me entirely.
Mucking about with stuff, though? I can do that, no problem. Which is what got me dangling the chain through a barrette blank and liking the way the metals felt together in my hand, and then wrapping the chain around a couple of times and deciding it looked okay, too. Hmm. Maybe I was onto something.
This one was actually harder to make than it might look. The main problem was attaching the chain to the barrette at either end. Luckily, the blanks have holes but the placement isn't ideal. Once I had the chain in place, I then used brass wire and chrome diopside chips to wrap either end to add a splash of colour. The shiny steel of the base still shows through, which I think gives it a kind of steampunk vibe.
One last hairpin, which I finished Friday morning. I loved the coral rondelles Lynn sent me, but I just couldn't find the right project for them. Eventually I came up with the idea of using them with tiger's eye rounds to make the base for a beaded flower, as a sort of larger-scale version of what I'd been doing with seed beads and o-beads. Once I had the base in place, however, I realized there was no way thread would ever hold things stiffly enough.
Cue one trial-and-error lesson in what can and cannot be done with copper wire. I made the base ring first, then the glass pearl petals (thanks, Jackie!) before adding a centrepiece of Swarovski pearls and a faceted garnet. After that, it was just a question of deciding a hairpin would make a suitable base and then wrapping it into position.
I'm still trying to work out whether it might be worth replicating for my sales table at the local craft fairs. This one, however, is staying firmly with me.
Finally, the earrings. Not really a lot to say about these other than that they're mostly drop earrings, some designed to go with various necklaces, some not. They were quick, they were fun, and they showcase a bunch of beads I couldn't fit in anywhere else. Oh, and some of them feature hexagonal netting because I've now reached the point where I pretty much always have a few spare netted flowers laying about the place.
In conclusion: If I had to pick one word to describe the way I've felt about my bead soup experience this year, it would have to be exhilarated. I've worked with materials I'd never normally be able to access, and used some old favourites in very different ways. I've made use of familiar techniques, learned new ones and generally jumped in and out of my comfort zones like a kid splashing in puddles. In short, it's been a blast - huge thanks to Lori for making it all happen, and most especially to Jackie and Lynn for sharing the journey with me.
Click here for Lori's blog and the full list of participants!
Click here for Lori's blog and the full list of participants!