Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Axes and Angst

I’ve been in a strange mood this week. Haven’t felt inclined to get fully involved in the kimono inspired neckpiece before we go away. My first template looked too big when I’d cut it out, I need to reduce it in size otherwise I will end up with a bullet proof vest instead of a necklace. Not a good look.
Instead I got out my sketchbook and came across some ideas I had for axehead shaped pieces. Am I becoming armour obsessed?  I’m a sucker for any archaeology programs on TV – especially those with hoards of gold in them (Tony Robinson can keep the pot sherds). So out with the bronze, copper and gold beads and before I knew where I was I was fully immersed in a new design.
Actually it’s been good for me to have a couple of things on the go at once, I normally work straight through on one piece. I might adopt this way of working permanently to keep things fresh and spontaneous. Anyway, the sun’s shining and I’m off to Ilkley to party. Crumbs I’m 56 this weekend! Maybe that’s why I’m in a funny mood!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Happy Endings

My new Verdigris necklace
I’m looking forward to a few days away from the ‘squirrel dome’ as my husband calls my beading area. We have another family wedding and my birthday at the end of the month and some serious partying is called for. Got my hair done yesterday and then sorted my outfit. This grotty weather makes it difficult to plan what to wear, and my dress has short sleeves. The answer, I decided was a shrug on top. Very on trend!
One of the biggest challenges when designing jewellery is the fastening, it can make such a big difference to the piece. I have started to make my own closures, especially for my bead embroidered pieces.
I completed a new necklace this week, with a handmade toggle clasp, very striking in verdigris and copper, a colour combination that I really love.
I’ve also started work on my Kimono neckpiece, I’m at the stage where I make a paper model of it, which I will use as a template to draw round. I’m intending to make the clasp like a fan shape, it just feels as if it will fit in with the design perfectly.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Finding that elusive ‘Aha’ moment

My silk painting has taken off in an unexpected direction. After an enjoyable week of experiments and learning, without the pressure of making anything in particular, I started to wonder what a glass cabochon would look like if I laid it over some painted silk. I selected a lovely rectangular piece of glass which was clear in places. Then I placed one of my handmade silk beads next to it. ‘Kimono’ sprang into my head instantly, so out with the watercolours and sketchbook to put some ideas down on paper for a bead embroidered neckpiece incorporating some of my silk.

Experiment with making
the silk scroll

This was a real ‘Aha’ moment and I just know that I am going to be slightly obsessed until ‘Kimono’ is complete. I think this will be a very interesting one to take step-by-step photos of for another You Tube video. Must find some lovely Japanese music for it. A proper kimono has lots of parts to it. As well as the garment itself the sash, or obi takes skill to tie. A traditional kimono is a multi-layered garment, so that will influence my design. Taking the time to research the background of what I making has always been an important - and hugely enjoyable part of the process for me. The colours and patterns of the kimono have symbolic meanings. Purple, for instance, symbolises deep and undying love. This is because the Gromwell plant that was used as dye has very long roots. The Shichifukujin are the seven good luck deities, a scroll of brocade is carried by one, so I will create tiny scrolls intricately embellished and stitched with metal thread and beads. This will be a very meaningful piece and what a lovely neckpiece to wear on a special wedding anniversary.
My worksheet for my 'Kimono Neckpiece' I find it really useful to organise my thoughts before I start work
on the beading. I refer to my original drawings often as work progresses.
Viking knit tools - can't wait to try them out
A new piece of equipment arrived this week. Viking knit chain kit complete with 4 mandrels, wire and draw plate. This has been beautifully made in English Ash by a very talented woodworker, who sells on etsy at
You form intricate woven wire chain over a mandrel and then make it thinner by pulling it through the draw plate. My mind is buzzing with ideas of how to incorporate this in my work.

Viking knit and wire wrapping are skills I’m keen to master, after I get ‘Kimono’ done…… and then there’s the peacock piece and those wood elf earrings I see in my minds eye and……. oh dear I need a longer week!

Other activities this week have included some experimenting with new ways to do the middle bits of bead daisies, painting fabric panels to make sketchbook covers and making a cushion cover (to cheer up my beading chair). Still too wet to do much in the garden, but at least the pot of bright pink Gerberas I bought have provided some inspiration – and a tasty treat for the slugs and snails who seemed ready for a change from my pansies.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Karma Chameleon Kumihimo

Pansies - from my sketchbook

I’m getting more adventurous in my choice of colours. Four years at art school taught me all about colour theory, but even so I often used to stick with colours that were very close to each other.

Purple with pink

Purple comes to life when
you add some
complimentary colours

If I was making a purple pendant,for example,  I would tend to mix it with paler versions of that shade. Purple really comes to life when used with hints of yellow, or lime. You only have to look at the cheerful little face of a pansy to see nature at work with that colour combination.

Painted silk inspired by flowers
I’ve had the silk paints out, as I’m painting my own silk ribbons. I know, I could go out and buy silk ribbon, but this is much more fun and they will be vibrant and unique. I started off by painting  a metallic resist called gutta onto a wide strip of silk then added areas of silk dye in flower petal shades. I did wonder what my husband would make of it, as at one stage it looked as if Jackson Pollock had been at work at my beading desk. But he really liked it! In fact he said it would make a great scarf and what a shame to cut it up. But cut it up I will, as I have the idea for the spring posy kumihimo braid firmly in my head. 

The best book on colour theory for anyone who loves freeform beading, kumihimo or bead crochet is 'Beaded Colorways' by Beverly Gilbert.  As well as gorgeous pictures there are several colour wheels to take out and use. A glance through the pages will have you tipping tiny beads out to mix them into ‘bead soup’!