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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fairy Tales DO Come True

I am pleased to announce that my chickens have hatched.  Cafesjian Gallery, international art dealer and gallery owner, has purchased "January Dawn."  It was such an amazing thing to contemplate that I really couldn't bring myself to completely believe it until I sent the invoice off and spoke with agent Ben, who will visit my studio to pick up the piece.  I have learned since my last post on the subject, "Don't Count Your Chickens..." that other beaded jewelry from the Minnesota State Fair Art Exhibit was also purchased for this collection, and I am thrilled for those artists as well. 

I have already discussed the inspiration for this work in the post "Which One?" but I had process photos and wanted to preserve them, as well as my three months and about 70 hours of effort, here in my blog.  Additionally, I will take this opportunity to share my final photographic efforts.  I'll start with a quick inspiration recap.

On January 13th, 2010, the dawn's orchid glow revealed hoar frost covering the landscape with breathtaking, spikey crystals of ice.  I took photos and resolved to create a necklace to honor the beauty of the morning.  In May, it was announced that my Etsy Beadweavers Team June challenge would be themed "Phenomenon" and I had the perfect subject!  I started work but quickly realized the overall project was too large and labor intensive to complete in less than a month, given my limited art time each day.

I wanted the piece to be soft and wearable.  Combining the spiky branch idea with a technique that afforded comfort and flexibility to the wearer took a while to work out. I used tubular peyote stitch in size 11 glossy white delicas to cover soft, clear plastic tubing, increasing and creating branch joins as necessary.  This required working out (with good advice from friends) a means to create a branch without pinching the join like this one.  My original idea called for overlapping branches, but I gave that up to maintain a low profile and the soft drape, letting all my branches just lay next to each other.
I worked along on the piece until mid June, when my friend Hannah asked to see how it was going.  I pinned all the components together and sent her a photo.  This was great, because it forced me to see how far I had come and how far there was yet to go.  I had all the branches begun, and about half of the Swarovski rivolis bezeled, and had just started the "frosting."  Taking progress photos often tells me more about my work than the hyper-focusing I do while working on the components. At this point, I decided the drusy teardrop did not belong in the work.  It felt heavy and earthbound to me, and although the necklace was substantial, I wanted it to be light and airy in feeling. 

Finally, by the end of June, all the branches were finished, and all the rivolis I planned to use were bezeled and I was ready to assemble them.  I concluded it would be most efficient to frost each rivoli separately, and then weave them into position, and then finally, frost the branches as a last step.  It was an interesting challenge to keep my thread from catching and tangling on the completed frost, especially as I neared the end of the project.  I found I could tell the thread where to go if I kept my intention clear all the way through each needle stroke.  I visited my elderly mother at the end of July, and the last bit of frosting was completed in her Helena, Montana living room, using a familiar TV tray (circa 1960's) as my beading bench.

"January Dawn" has been on exhibit at the Textile Center of Minnesota library for the last two months, and I have had it with me for a week for photography, which is just incredibly difficult for me.  I think white beadweaving poses unique challenges.  Here are a few new photos, which I hope capture the the essence of the work.  If you have suggestions, please let me know quick, while I can still have a new go at it!

I've added this last one to let you see how bad my struggle with black ground has been! 


  1. Hello Marsha~
    Wow, this piece is so lovely. You've really done a beautiful job capturing the frosty peaks and the whole piece drapes just beautifully.

    I love seeing progress photos and appreciate when bead weavers take the time to share their process with step by step images, discussions of their trial and error, and their overall feeling of how the finished piece turned out. You should be very proud of this beauty, and congratulations on the sale to the Cafesjian gallery.

    You asked for suggestions for photographing your work. I think a darker background, perhaps a gray or dark brown, would show off the detail of your work. I remember you saying that you felt the drops got lost on a darker background, but I would definitely take some photos, at least of the interior frosting, on a darker background. It would resemble the contrast of the frost against the branches in your inspirational photo. If you take a few photos on a darker background, I think it would be easier to see and appreciate the intricate detail of your work.

    Again, thanks for sharing your journey and for assuring us that, with a lot of work and a lot of beads, fairy tales can come true. ;>


  2. How exciting! Sometimes when a piece finds a new owner, a beader has to wonder if it will be cared for and enjoyed the way it should be. Well, I don't think this piece will be neglected in it's new home!

    I think your pictures turned out nice, especially the last one. If you want to up the light a little bit, I find that zooming in and pulling back the camera can help get the right focus and lower the glare when shooting white glass. Good luck and congratulations!

  3. Congratulations! What a beautiful work of art.

  4. Hello!!! What a piece of work. Needs to be in a movie. Lisa is right. Just experiment and experiment until you the photo that makes you say,"Yes that's it!" Try different colors, different lighting. You'll get it girl. Anyone that can hatch chicks and do bead work like this, will figure out the photography too. If it is possible, you should take this necklace outside in an icy woods and photograph it on the neck of a beautiful ice princess.

  5. I love all your photography advice ladies. I've made several efforts on black, (I think I have take over 100 shots total!) and my results are really abysmal. No amount of "white balance" or jiggling exposure and contrast seems to help me. The white is just shocking against the black and the edges are all jiggly looking. One day maybe I will take a photography class! The three photos about are on a meduim gray, white matte, and cream velvet. Maybe I'll have to add one of the black ground ones to the post and then you can all say... "Oh! You just have to do this!!!" and I'll have all the answers. :o)

  6. Beautiful piece of beading art!!!:)

  7. Wow, Marsha! This is just beautiful. Incredible workmanship and interpretation. Stunning!

  8. Awesome piece, Marsha!!!!!
    Chris :D

  9. Beautiful piece Marsha! Instead of black, have you tried a dark mid-night blue? (You'll still need to have you camera on a manual setting to achieve results.)

  10. It's beautiful. I can say just: wowwww!

  11. Congratulations on this fabulous piece.

  12. Simply breathtaking. I can only imagine how much trouble the frost part was. Brava!

  13. This is truly spectacular!!!! brava!

  14. Completely and utterly spectacular piece!
    Teressa Dyer