Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Just do it!

Prepared fabric with cabochons glued in place
- now let the beading commence!
Over lunch today I watched a TV programme about David Hockney's new exhibition at the Royal Academy. He said that an artist should design with 3 things, head, heart and hands - just 2 of them won't do. How true that is! Often a first sketch is much livelier than the finished piece if you're not careful.

Too much procrastination can knock the heart out of a project, and whilst it can be technically perfect, the spirit has been lost in the striving for perfection. It's a difficult balancing act sometimes. With that in mind I lay my rough sketch for my mermaid bead embroidery down on the fabric to draw round, avoiding the temptation to fiddle with the shape any more and quickly sketched in the swirls and attached the cabochons. I want to try a recreate my initial vision with the beads so I've just got to jump in an go for it! I guess all creative people procrastinate - and it can lead to a real creative block. The trick is to relax and dive right in.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Every girl has her vices

Mandi is a big help - and she never complains!
I’m referring to those essential bits of hardware that make life easier for the bead worker.
The large metal neck is useful when making paper or plasticine roughs at the planning stage. It also helps to see how a piece of bead embroidered jewellery will look on a real person. Her name is Mandi and she came all the way from Italy, (her technical name is a mandrel). Mandi is modelling a paper rough of my Mermaid bead embroidered neckpiece with cabochons attached with double sided tape. She is an invaluable companion when making an asymmetrical piece, as I need to know how it will hang. I want it to be comfortable and not twist round when worn. In this case I needed to add a tiny bit to one side of the necklace. I'm really excited about the soft wavy shape of the piece.

I also use a fly fisherman's vice when I am making beaded beads. It was bought from an online fishing tackle store and is perfect for the job. For ages after getting it I received catalogues of fishing rods and chest waders!

Monday, 27 February 2012

Makeover musings

Rosebowl Braid - just completed
Monday again and time to indulge in some bead embroidery again after a hectic weekend. Oven cleaning, watching the Rugby (with much celebrating afterwards) and booking hotels for 2 wedding weekends away meant limited time in the 'Squirrel Dome'.

However, I completed my new kumihimo braid on Friday, the handmade brick stitch clasp looks just right on it - it blends into the weaving much better than a bought metal one would have done.

Sketch with cabochons laid in place

Sorting through my collection of handmade glass cabochons on Saturday, I came across 2 beauties that just refused to go back in the box and I had to get the sketchbook out right away. After the geometry of the 'Athena' commission I am compelled to go all organic and flowing in a large bead embroidered neckpiece for a change, whilst I wait for the beads to arrive which will to go into the 'Clarice' bead embroidery. I've so many things on the to do list, not least of which is a makeover for my website. I'm increasingly finding that there is a real crossover between embroidery and bead weaving. With several techniques appearing in one piece, it's no longer realistic to have separate categories, and anyway, I think it's time the website had a fresh new look.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Pick 'n' mix

I had an email from a customer earlier this week bemoaning the fact that there were no bead shops in her area. It's the same where I live and I guess the internet is to blame for the disappearance of independent craft shops. I'm as guilty as the next person for this, it's a bit of a Catch 22 situation, we want inexpensive, we want it delivered - and then we miss the little guys when they have to close. We have a great big Hobbycraft store out of town and that's about it and even in there you can sense the tumbleweeds blowing down the aisles.

We do have a shop called Angels Crystals where they sell gemstones and fossils though. I popped in there yesterday and bought a large and very gorgeous Lapis Lazuli cabochon flecked with tiny sparkly inclusions. It was lovely to browse somewhere where you could rummage and pick things up rather than look at a sometimes inaccurate photo. This will probably sit on my desk for a while, before it eventually tells me what it wants to be made into!
Pick a peck of pearls and petals!

Back home for a quick lunch and then up to what my husband wryly calls 'The Squirrel Dome' to get on with the Rosebowl Braid. I've woven in loads more beads from my stash that are reminiscent of petals.

I bought a great new book this week (I've climbed off my soapbox so I won't drone on about the lack of little bookshops).

For anyone who loves jewellery and artists sketchbooks 'Drawing Jewels for Fashion' by Carol Woolton is a complete joy. It gives a glimpse into the ideas and inspiration of some of the worlds top jewellery designers and shows their working drawings, thought processes, mood boards and so on. The cover really doesn't do it justice, but if you look on Amazon they have a preview of some inside pages.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Keep calm and Kumihimo

Athena finished at last and off to her new home
Finally managed to get to the beading desk this afternoon after a frantic morning of packaging and a walk to the post office laden with packets. There always seem to be loads things that need to be done before I can sit down to the actual process of making something and I know from reading other artist's blogs that we all find this to be the case. Any tasks to do with the internet just seem to eat into your time and parcelling up for dispatch can take a while.

I finished Athena a couple of days ago and she has gone off to her new home so I have started a new Kumihimo braid this afternoon.

Wooden Marudai ready to begin braiding

Kumihimo braiding is one of the most relaxing activities I know, it is all to do with the rhythmic movements and the sound the bobbins make as they pass back and forth - just like wooden wind chimes. Kneeling on the yoga stool listening to soothing music with aromatherapy oils in my burner is a pretty good way to spend a Monday afternoon. After a couple of hours the Karma is fully restored!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

……and then I realised it was all just a dream!

Cheerful clutter in bead heaven
There I was, working away in a beautiful clean spacious studio. Stacks of custom-built storage cabinets lined the walls. Acres of worktop meant that I could have half a dozen projects on the go at once. All my tubes of beads were neatly sorted by colour, size and shape. Books were tidy and shelved according to subject matter. Tools were on racks, clasps and findings neatly boxed and labelled.

Sigh…. It is just a lovely dream and the reality of my tiny working space is rather different. But I love it dearly, as I am surrounded by treasures and delights collected over a lifetime. Tiny silk birds and a butterfly bought when I was an art student, glass mobiles and suncatchers, fortune cookie slips from our honeymoon and charity shop bought trinkets make up just some of the joyful clutter that jostles for space amongst the jewellery making equipment. My clever husband has made pegs for jewellery and installed shelving for books, beads and art equipment.
Home is where the heart is!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Finding new ways to do things

Athena - in progress
A stiff neck over the last few days have meant that I have had to intersperse bead embroidery with other bead related activities and this has included sketching, making plasticine shapes and reading about new techniques. I’ve been making some beaded beads and have a foiled cabochon in mind to combine with them. I also bought some Italian leather, in several colours, as I want to try some larger neckpieces and they need to be flexible and comfortable. The old saying that ‘if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got’ is very true and some time out to reassess where my work is heading has been invaluable.

Hazel catkins
from my sketchbook
All of this means that Athena is taking longer than I anticipated. However she is looking good and the strap is shaping up beautifully. I refuse to hurry as I want to do my very best work. Another day or two is neither here nor there after a couple of weeks getting to this stage!
At least there are signs of Spring, birds singing, catkins blowing in breeze, daffodils in bud and a feeling of promise in the air of pleasures to come.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Valentine thoughts

As the time for romance approaches I often think back to the Valentine Days when I was a little girl. How we looked forward to our treats! On the evening of February 14th, there would be a mysterious knock at the door. One of us children would rush to open it to find nobody there. But there would be a package, left on the doorstep by Valentine. Inside would be small gifts, nothing extravagant, maybe a jigsaw, possibly a puzzle book or a ball and some sweets, sometimes – joy of joys – a magic painting book. How I loved magic painting books (still do I must confess). 
This is all a long way removed from all the hype and expense around in the shops just now. I like making hearts though, and have sold handmade cards at craft fairs and gift shops locally.
On a beady note Athena is progressing well, central section done and now the strap to complete and sterling silver clasp to affix over the weekend. I’m really pleased at how the design looks like the original one, but is at the same time quite unique. Well that’s what handcrafted should be about really. Enough rambling and back to the beading desk!

Monday, 6 February 2012

An abundance of beadwork

Athena in progress

Athena is coming along nicely. I’ve let the sunset colours in the cabochon influence the colours of the smaller beads.
A touch of copper and peacock is combining well with deep purple and pink. I’m glad that I’m becoming more adventurous in my choice of colours.
Talking of adventures, what fun I had yesterday looking at Clarice Cliff ceramics for a new embroidered neckpiece design. I thought at first that I might do a pendant based on one piece of china, but my original vision has expanded after some research and this will be a larger piece. I know I want to get sun rays in there somewhere, as well as the geometric shapes that sum up the art deco era so well.

After some experimental doodling I’ve done my preliminary sketch.

It’s good just to let your imagination run riot sometimes. Well, why just settle for a plate when you can have the whole dinner service. Now there’s a good philosophy for living!

Thursday, 2 February 2012

February frost and comfort food

Robin and ivy from my sketchbook
It’s hard to imagine that just a month ago I was watching lizards basking on rocks in Tenerife!  What a contrast this frosty weather is. I was out early this morning putting out food for the birds. No sooner had I got back in the house than two robins arrived, hopefully to refuel before the woodpigeons drop in to my ‘bird bistro’ – what clumsy great things they are.

Treasures found in the
frosty hedgerow
The hedgerows are rather sparse, but I was surprised on my walk yesterday to see some periwinkle still in flower in some places amongst the ivy, as well as the usual early spring flowers. Now there’s a nice idea for a necklace, the delicate blue would be lovely amongst deep glossy green and black twisty ivy stems. But I must keep this idea on hold for now (along with a trillion other ideas) whilst I complete ‘Athena’.
Comfort food for body and soul today include hot soup, a frosty walk to the post office and beading around a cabochon with all the colours of the sunset in it.
My second You Tube slideshow is online now. Visit for a few minutes of beady eye candy!