Friday, May 31, 2013

Just in Time for the Real Thing!


Finally, after what seems like a very long Winter and a nearly non-existent Spring here in Minnesota, the lilacs are blooming!  Just in time for opening of the largest consumer bead show in the world, the Bead & Button Show.  And I am going this year, for three days carefully plotted into my busiest costume season.  I have never been to this event, in my almost 6 years of beading, and it is just a 5 hour drive away, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Why this year, you ask?

Because I have a Second Place ribbon-winning entry in the Bead Dreams Competition!

Meet, "Picnic in May on Lilac Way!"
 

 This piece really began in 2011, when I made my first attempt at creating a beaded lilac entry, but decided I had the wrong components, and did not finish the project as planned
 
When I revisited the idea of working with beaded lilac blossoms to create a necklace, I read the story of our "Lilac Way," a highway near my home, and it provided inspiration for the 2013 incarnation.  I love this story!
 
 In 1935, the Minnesota Highway Deaprtment and the WPA joined forces to complete a "belt highway" around the Twin Cities, intended to relieve traffic congestion and improve many unpaved country roads.  The resulting Highway 100 was collaboratively designed by a highway engineer and a landscape architect, and included several parks along it's large right-of-way.
 
 
 These parks were intended to be picnic destinations, with ponds, waterfalls, and beehive barbecue structures.  The Golden Valley Garden Club worked to plant the parks with lilacs.  Eventually, more than 7000 lilacs were part of the extensive park and highway system, and many can still be seen blooming along the length of Highway 100 each May.
 
 I imagined young women picknicking in the park, twisting the lilac blossoms into necklaces, and this informed the structure of my design.  My friend Kate just wrote about making dandylion crowns for her daughters in her blog, and this is exactly what I was imagining! Even the  instruction photo seems to have a vintage quality! I might even remember my mother telling me about doing this as a child.

I tried to keep my necklace as realistic as beaded flowers can be, and organic in form.  I did play a little less realistically with the leaves, using rounded surfaces for the heart shaped greenery to create a foil for the texturally complex blossoms. 
 
 The secret to the structure of the lilac blossoms is the use of 50lb test clear fishing line as a core, to support the tiny flower clusters called thryses  I tried to keep each blossom slightly different and unique, and each uses multiple bead colors, both within the individual flowers and within the blossom panicles, to improve depth, and express the difference between recently bloomed flowers and older ones that have begun to fade.   I designed this structure two years ago, and scaled it down (from 11/0 and 8/0 rocailles to 15/0 and 11/0) to create a more realistic presence for this piece.  The work contains almost 200 tiny flowers, arranged in 5 large panicles and one smaller one, plus 22 leaves, and took over 100 hours to create.   
Here is a panicle under construction.
Many, MANY hours later, with the 5 panicles mostly finished, and a few heart shaped leaves created, I began playing with layout.
 
 
I decided on an organic, asymmetrical balance, and began assembling panicles on bead backing, covered in deep green pigskin suede.
 
 

 
 
Once the five large panicles were completed and applied, I continued placing leaves, and applied one last, small panicle where I wanted the piece to close.  The leaves are structurally self supporting, but I knew the one above the hook closure would take some stress and be squeezed when opened and closed, so I padded the curves with smooth oval beads.
 
 
Then I placed the final heart shaped leaf, over the position of the hidden skirt hook closure, as I was finishing binding on the pigsuede backing.
 
 
The challenge of stitching on the backing was simplified by bagging sections I was not working on , to keep my thread from tangling on them.
 
 
 Here is a full finished back view.
 
And a panicle detail shot.
 
 I am off to see the Bead and Button show on the 6th of June, but things are already underway there as we speak. I am so very excited to see all the amazing work in person and to meet some of my online beady buddies.  Julia Gerlach and Steven Weiss have arranged an event for Bead Dreams finalists and Battle of the Beadsmith participants, and I feel so very honored and so lucky to be a part of both groups and to be able to attend!  I hope to see YOU there!

23 comments:

  1. In Poland lilacs are blooming too. Your necklace is almost smelling!

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    1. I am glad to know the flower is all over the globe! I took the picture of the open blossom this morning and the scent was intoxication. Thank you!

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  2. Lilac is one of my favorite flowers as well. Your necklace, Marsha, is a true masterpiece! Fascinating!

    I am so happy for you being able to enjoy your success and to meet in person all your artists friends. It is going to be another fantastic subject for your next blog entry. I cannot wait! ~ Ileana

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    1. I know there will be material for a blog post at the Bead & Button show, and I have a post waiting in the wings about my Battle piece and about a piece I am working on for the Etsy Beadweavers June Bride challenge, so I felt it was time to get this out to make room for all that is to follow in the next week or so! Thank you Ileana!!

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  3. Marsha, this is utterly gorgeous! It was interesting seeing you solve design and construction issues. Bagging the parts you aren't working on??? Genius! I'll be using that one in the future...

    Have fun at the show!

    Kate

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    1. lol Kate! Enjoy the bagging! It really works pretty well. And thank you for the kind words as well. :)

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  4. Fabulous work, technique, and volume.
    Greetings,
    -Eva Maria

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    1. Thank you Eva Maria. Your kind attention and comments are always appreciated!

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  5. Congratulations on your necklace my dear, it is like a dream. It looks so real! What an incredible artwork! I think that it has good chances to win a ribbon!

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    1. Gosh Cath, I am so honored to be among the finalists that placing or winning is simply not even on my radar. Some past winners have said that publicizing my work before the show will damage my chances, but I figure I have already won. And just like in the Battle of the Beadsmith, the real battle is the internal struggle and the stamina required to finish a project like this. Thank you for your vote of confidence in my work!!!

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  6. Those glorious shades of lilac just dance your eye around the entire necklace. Stunning details - I didn't want this post to end! Thank you for so generously sharing your process with us. I know you'll have the most delightful time at B&B.

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  7. Thank you so much! I just cannot wait for next week!

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  8. Your technique and attention to both esthetic and technical details is amazing! The piece is gorgeous, I love that you made it so natural and balanced, and not just pile on every trick you could think of (my quite Finnish taste is a bit more simple than the American more-is-more). A real fairytale necklace. I've also been bead weaving for six years, and feel really humble right now :D Thank you for sharing your process in such detail, your posts are very educational!

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    1. I have a bit of Norwegian blood myself, and I like things clean and simple too. I am glad that you find that in a work with this much texture and lush excess. Makes me very happy!

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  9. I hope you never get tired of me saying: Stunning. It is always the first thing that comes to mind when I see your beautiful pieces.

    For a time when I stayed with my grandmother she would place lilacs in the bedroom. It is a joyful memory. Thank you for reminding me.

    Many many many years ago when I would buy Czech beads by the hank the store would roll them in saran to keep them from getting tangled. Saran has been a favorite tool of mine since. (I use it to stuff my puffy hearts to provide structural support.) Saran might work the next time you have to "bag" something to avoid a tangling hazard.

    I love all your pieces Marsha, but this might very well be my favorite.

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    1. Cool! I'll give saran wrap a go the next time I do this. I did some teeny fringed beads and used saran wrap and orthodontic elastics to mask off the finished fringes when I worked, so I know that will be a great idea! Thank you for sharing and always for your very kind words of encouragement. :)

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  10. Just so breathtaking. The first necklace was amazing, and I stared at it for at least an hour when you posted it, just taking in details. This one... oh Marsha. What an incredible creation. Lilacs were my mom's favorite ever flowers. I miss her all the time, but especially when the lilacs are blooming - and they've just started to go past, here in VT. Such a huge amount of work... such a plethora of beauty. I wish I could come to B&B and meet you, and I wish I could see your work in person. But I am as happy as can be, to be able to say you're my friend, and to be able to admire your work and your words here online. xxxxxx

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    1. Nancy, thank you so much for your continuing support and encouragement. I would just love to see everyone I know and care about at B&B, but will have to settle for some of you not being there. I hope some year we might meet in Milwaukee!

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  11. A truly beautiful creation, Marsha! As a new resident of a cooler gardening climate, I can attest to how very lifelike your lilac blossoms are; Mother Nature is proud, I know!

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  12. Marsha, this is just beautiful! I am in Wisconsin and didn't get to B&B this year due to family commitments. I sure wish I could have seen this work of art in person. I can almost smell the lilacs they looked so realistic! Just gorgeous fellow artisan!

    Have a fantastic summer!
    Dawn
    Connect with me on Facebook: http://on.fb.me/11fQk1A

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    1. Dawn, thank you so much. Maybe next year we might meet at the show!

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