Saturday, 4 February 2017

Revived Blog

I've been inspired by some of my other favorite Bloggers to get back to writing a little about my adventures in beading. I guess it helps that I am beading again after a bit of a hiatus!

When I need to bead but inspiration is lacking I often turn to kits/tutorials and the one I chose for multiple Christmas presents was this cute acorn pattern 'Squirreled Away' from Oaktree Crafts

Choosing different size 15 beads from my stash took nearly as long as the beadwork. I also had to factor in painting time for the wooden blanks (available through the same site) I used my son's old stash of metallic model paints (luckily acrylic and not too solventy). The acorn gifts were strung on gold ribbon and can be used as decorations or even bag charms.

After this successful kick in my beading pants I found some leftover bead soup from a custom cuff I made this year, and used it for a pin/brooch. The same stone (chrysocolla) features in both projects. I changed the edging bead colour (both Toho triangles though) to reflect the change in the stone itself.

Chrysocolla Brooch 'Rainforest'
I've now begun a floral project nudged by the wonderful bead guru Nancy Dale in her blog Here, and the facebook group she has started to unite beaders who follow her 'prompts' 

Another inspiring blog, recently started, spreads the bead love under the aegis of Marcia DeCoster among others. The beaded letters are so pretty and have been the best sort of viral project, showing up on my Facebook feed regularly. I hope to make my own soon, but as ever the colour selection is the hardest part!

So, thanks to some other beaders, my blogging and beading have been rekindled. Long may it last!

Friday, 18 December 2015

Peapod in Purple

The last commission before Christmas (I hope) was one of my signature peapod pendants. I know a lot of people have come up with similar designs over the years but I have been making them to my own design for at least the last decade. The reason I have made so many of these is that for the last 13 years I've been working in pea genetics and all but one of the pods have gone to ex-colleagues as leaving presents. The only problem has been making sure that the pods are fairly correct botanically, and fit the research... thus this one, for a student working on gene expression in pod tissue, had to be purple, for the mutation she was investigating. The peas and the calyx had to be green however

Luckily I had just the right colours of freshwater pearls and cylinder beads on hand to make 'Becky's Purple Pod'

I've just sent it off to my old project leader so she can pass it on.
I wonder if I'll still be making these now I've left the group...somehow I think I will as they are very satisfying to do!

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Back from the beady beyond

Wow it has been a LONG time since my last blog post! I hit a bump in life's road where it all became too much but in the background the beads were waiting.
Since taking redundancy this year I have been able to rediscover the joy of beading and so I have a few pieces to share.
 The Battle of the Beadsmith went ahead as usual with many more participants and a more complicated structure. This time I decided I wanted to make components in bead embroidery, and knowing that I would be short of time decided to make a necklace on a smaller scale than my embroidered bags (I was finishing up many strands of research at work prior to my finishing in July)

I called the piece 'Peach Parfait' and based the palette around the shades in the focal piece of plume agate (one of my favourite minerals) The curved components were inspired by swags in baroque architectural embellishments.

A favourite glass artist of mine is Lyn Owen of Silvermoonlyn and if I am really lucky I can score one of her amazing dichroic glass cabochons when they get listed at midnight UK time (Lyn is based in Australia so the time difference is not my friend). Anyway this was one of my treasured purchases, and is an amazing purple/blue shimmering glass with a lot of silver foil. Quite challenging to match in seed beads but I was happy with the result and found a great summer dress to wear with it. so it was one of my 'most worn' pieces of 2015

Finally, I have become very partial to the ceramic buttons frequently found in museum shops here in the UK. After a lot of hunting around on google images I discovered they are made by a small company based in Cornwall: Stockwell Ceramics. As these buttons are available in various sizes they make great additions to bead embroidery. This 'Arts and Crafts' style daffodil button inspired me to make a scenic barrette (I am still addicted  to making these!) I used a 'painting' method with different blends of size 15 beads for the background, and made the daffodils in peyote/embroidery using size 11s

I am really happy with this and can see me experimenting further in this Impressionist brushstroke style.

I hope to get back on the blog wagon a bit more in the coming months, now my beading has revived and the muse is visiting again.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Back to the bead challenges (part 2)

Following on from the 'Famous Painting' challenge, I thought I'd make an effort and complete a piece for the 'Read and Bead' challenge that the OTTBS spin off Facebook group had going. The deadline was 6th February, but the books were set way back in November to allow time for the reading as well as the beading!

I like to choose an unfamiliar book rather than one I have already read for these challenges, so I went for 'A Discovery of Witches' by Deborah Harkness. This is a paranormal romance with historical aspects, and was fun to read. The beading aspect was a little harder, partly because there were many different themes and settings.

In the end, I settled on making a pendant based on the hero Matthew's pilgrim's ampulla. Looking these up on the internet showed them to be variable in shape, but in general having 2 'handles' which could be used as hanging loops. In the book, Matthew's pendant is shaped like a coffin and has an embossed scene of Lazarus rising from the dead, but that level of detail was not going to be achievable without scaling the piece up too much to be wearable. Instead I used the coffin shape, and then embellished it with different aspects of the story. It is surprising how much you can fit into a small space!

Here is the finished piece:

The lampwork heart is for the love between the witch Diana and the vampire Matthew. The brown bugles represent Matthews distinctive spicy scent which I interpreted as cinnamon sticks, and the leaves are the contrasting herbal fragrance of Diana. A goblet (or possibly grail) holds a cross for Matthew's Crusader past. The contrast of matte and shiny metallic beads is to symbolise past and present. The pendant is embroidered on grey Nicole's Bead Backing, and backed with ultrasuede then strung on silver cord and ribbon for the scene in the book where Diana flies up from the oubliette.

Using non-pictorial inspiration has been a good exercise for me, as usually I'm very visually inspired. I recommend the process for a different take on beading...

Monday, 10 February 2014

Back to the bead challenges (part I)

Well it has been a while, again mostly because I have been beading more, I have been blogging less!
I decided to just go with the flow and not beat myself up about it!
I wanted to keep trying challenges and have made a few pieces already in 2014. The opening Monthly Challenge on Operation Tackle That Bead Stash was to make a piece inspired by a famous painting. I decided to use a button I had bought (not from a bead store or from an online specialist, but from the good old department store haberdashery selection.) It looked like a Poppy central part to me (with my botanist side coming through) so I chose the painting Oriental Poppies by the American artist Georgia O'Keeffe, which she produced in 1928, but which, like much of her work, looks remarkably undated.

I decided that rather than bead 'a' poppy inspired by the work I would use one of 'the' poppies in the picture, and (without photo-reproducing it) see if I could paint with beads to achieve something similar to the original.

Disclaimer: I am not trained in art past the age of 13 at school, and do not count actual painting amongst my skills! I drew a shape somewhat like the one in the painting on a piece of Nicole's Bead Backing in red.
Then I realised that I would need to somehow accommodate the integral glass shank of the button in the centre, but that in order to have it flush, it would end up protruding through the back. Hmmmm....OK I cut a donut shape in bead backing to backfill the button, and glued it in, this time I used black. I also cut a wiggly black shape and glued that to the centre of the red, being sparing with the glue as I wanted to be able to sew through it to secure it. Then I cut a small hole in the centre and glued down the button, With the double layer of bead backing I accommodated the shank pretty much completely. Then I let everything set overnight.

Because I wanted to 'paint' with beads I realised that most of the project would need to be executed in size 15s, and fortunately I had a good number of shades on hand due to an unfinished project involving poppy jasper. I spread out a little pile of each and began:

First I fringed round the button with matte black, just straight fringe, nothing too fancy. Then I began the petals and as I did I began blending the bead piles into mini soups, trying for a tone similar to the painting. Sometimes I beaded in a radial pattern, sometimes I let them flow in a circular manner, taking the cues from the painting which I had on my screen. Somewhat surprisingly I discovered I needed a lot more orange than I thought, for the highlights on petal edges, I did use some size 11s as I didn't have quite the right colour in 15s. you can see them below in the bottom petal. I used a mix of silverlined, transparent (since the foundation was coloured) semi-frosted silverlined, and matte finishes.

I trimmed off the foundation at the end, and waited a few days before finishing it as a brooch using black ultrasuede and a brickstitch edging in 11s to tidy it up. Although it is large, it is quite wearable, and I am very fond of it, and I'm glad I didn't let negative school art reports hold me back!

If you'd like to see what other participants in the challenge made, here is a link to the OTTBS January 2014 challenge reveal. A truly challenging challenge, but great inspiration, I shall be browsing galleries for more works to 'paint in beads'

Friday, 6 December 2013

Bead, Book, Bounce: I Can Herringbone by Melissa Grakowsky

I Can Herringbone by Melissa Grakowsky was November's choice of book for review and make, over on Operation Tackle That Bead Stash, my fave group on Facebook.

I had just purchased this book, while I was pre-ordering another title... you know the 'People who bought this....' who am I to argue with 'People'? I've always rather liked Herringbone or Ndebele stitch, and had admired Melissa's work for a while, especially her gorgeous masks... I was easily persuaded!

The shorter than usual deadline for this challenge caught me napping however, and I was shocked to find I had only a couple of days to make something and review the book...this is by way of an apology if you find the following rather thin.

I chose to make the Fern earrings, the final project in the 'Flat Herringbone' section, because it appealed to my botanist side and also looked satisfyingly complex. The detailed instructions made it much quicker to make than I thought possible, I began over my breakfast, and had made the first side of a fern by the time it came to leave for work. I finished it off in an hour this evening since I had other commitments yesterday. Initially I misunderstood the written instructions and joined the pinnae too far up, losing the flexibility, but looking at the photo clarified things. The diagrams are very clear too, as might be expected since Melissa is a go-to graphics expert for other bead designers.

Here is the one earring I have completed and I shall be making its pair shortly. The beads used are matte champagne duracoat 11s and 15s and bronze 11s and 8s. I didn't have rondelles in the right colour but the 4mm matte gold firepolished were a good substitute, and I mixed it up with some matte gold 6s too

I have a few more projects lined up to make from this book. Although the title suggests it is aimed at beginners, and it is indeed a stitch primer for many variations of the stitch, there is plenty to interest more advanced beaders too. If you haven't tackled herringbone stitch in your beadwork, or if you wish to expand your capabilities, this is a great book for the shelf.

Edited as we were given a month's grace:

Here is the next piece I decided to make, the Transcription Bracelet. Just the title appealed to my Molecular Biologist alter ego. I had to buy some 10mm pearls, fortunately my LBS owner had been on a buying trip and had an inexpensive selection of Chinese glass pearls to choose from. I picked Purple for the pearls and stuck with gold and metallic raspberry for the seed beads. I found the tension harder to keep consistent for this, as it twists as you work. Keeping a good grip was a little difficult and every now and then I'd lose my needle! I substituted slightly smaller drop beads by accident, so the size 6s stand a little prouder than in the illustrations. There was a small error in the instructions for adding the pearls so I followed the diagram instead. I did find the 15s which were supposed to secure the pearls in the curves could slip through the tube of herringbone unless I was careful to cross a thread. I didn't quite finish, as the bezeled Rivoli for the clasp is a little slack: I may substitute a button instead. There is the other fern earring so you can see I did complete a pair too!

Please visit the OTTBS blog for links and pictures from other group members.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Barrette Bedlam

I had a sudden burst of creativity over the last fortnight, which manifested itself as a plethora of barrettes (or hairslides if you prefer). It has got so bad that a fellow member of the OTTBS group has nicknamed me the 'Baroness of Barrettes' which makes me feel rather refined! I think the scale of the pieces is rather appealing, and as happened last year, it has whetted my appetite for a larger endeavour (whispers..maybe a purse). Anyway, I was really encouraged by the sale of one of them within a week from my Etsy, although it was one of my favourites so I would have taken pity on it and worn it myself if it had stayed there...

Another aspect of barrettes which makes them fun to do is that they are good for using up 'odd' or singleton focals, and a few accent beads (not enough on their own to make a full project). And then, the back of one's head is a great place to display one's work too (I do have fairly long hair)

Anyway here are the completed ones:

All but the green one have button focals. I think the next one will use one of the luna cabochons I bought at the last bead fair I visited: I got there a bit late, and had a limited choice and only odd ones. Perfect for this kind of thing!