Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The TOHO Challenge - Winter Garden of Discontent

Over the last couple years I have begun to get to know the nice folks at Bobby Bead, a local bead shop in Uptown Minneapolis.  And as a result of that, I was invited to be one of the featured designers in The TOHO Challenge.

Here's how it works.  Toho chooses a collection of beads, and each featured designer world wide gets the same box. Everyone beads, and then, there is a big reveal at the Bead and Button Show, where all the designer's work is featured in showcases neighboring the Bead Dreams entries.  Here are the 2016 featured designer's pieces.  Each year there are some fantastic pieces, and I always find it really interesting to see many varied designers working with the same collection of beads.  I encourage you to check out the show, just outside the shopping area in the Wisconsin Center.

At the show, interested beaders may stop at the TOHO booth and pick up their own mini kit of challenge beads, and submit an entry themselves.  Here are last year's public entries.

All work is kept secret until the big reveal, BUT LUCKY ME, I get to show my work early, because it was chosen to serve as the TOHO advertisement in the current edition of Beadwork Magazine.

To tell you the truth, I personally found the colors challenging to work with. My beads arrived on Christmas Eve.  I opened the box, and was flummoxed.  Most of my work is nature inspired, and there was nary a leafy green bead in sight.  In fact, at first glance, not much color-wise from the natural world at all. But, thankfully, I am a gold-over-silver girl. I read somewhere recently that the colors were taken from the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, which now makes good sense to me.

 I took a walk in the park at the end of my street in the late afternoon, and saw golden leaves, still clinging to sleeping branches, with a hint of sunset glow making ice crystals sparkle.  I thought, "here it is!" and decided to create a winter garden piece.  I found myself saddened by the political climate in my country, and the ideas in Richard III's "Now is the winter of our discontent..." soliloquy were in my mind.  I would make a stark, wintry vignette, and then infuse it with hints of hope and joy.  Because I simply refuse to be a saddened by circumstances beyond my control.

SO, "Winter Garden of Discontent" was born, and developed over the icy month of January.  It was nice making little golden leaves in the cold and darkness.  (For those who have asked, they are the same leaves in my Rose Hips tutorial, available on Etsy.) I saw a beautiful image posted by a friend on her fB page of dangling Brugmansia flowers.  They bloom only at night  and I loved that, believing it fit neatly with my theme, so I created a trio of them.

I have since been playing with this flower shape, and am REALLY looking forward to this Friday, when 50 new colors of Demi beads will appear at Bobby Bead.  I have two variations of these flowers ready to be illustrated and written up as components in a new piece I am envisioning.  And these new colors?  YUM!  Can't wait!  Here is a sneak peek of my variations.

I LOVE those new DEMI BEADS!!  Great structural potential, and unique accents too. 

The little butterfly may be involved too.  At first I thought it would be a blue bird of happiness, but the crescents and demi beads wanted to be butterflies instead.  The butterflies are an amalgamation of the blue Morpho and the little blue Skippers that flitted through my childhood on Mount Helena.

And the acorns?  I believe they will re-appear in a project for the fall.  I have ordered those beautiful Czech Melon beads in a a myriad of autumnal colors, and I can't wait to have time to play with them.

Thanks TOHO, for choosing me as a featured designer, and thank you also for the great introduction to Demi beads and Czech Crescents and Melons.  They are a delight!


  1. Wonderful application of techniques, colors and shapes. This work tells a beautiful story.

    -Eva Maria

    1. Thank you Eva Maria, I am thankful for your kindness.

  2. Personally I love the colors. I really do like gold. As always, beautiful.

    1. Well..... I may have cheated my photo slightly to improve contrast and add a bit of depth to the colors. As Toho presents the images, it is entirely beige, but I think they went too far the other way with adding light to the image. I love gold too, and that was certainly the idea that drove my project. Thanks KJ, for reading and commenting!