Search This Blog

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Alpha and the Omega

I said goodbye to two of my pieces over the weekend and sent them off to their new home with a wonderful patron of beadwoven art.  She has purchased my work before and I have enjoyed working with her on a custom project as well.  Her new purchases include one of the first beadwoven necklaces I designed and created, starting about 3 months after I discovered beading, and stretching over a several month period to completion.
The first (my "alpha") piece is called "Mom's African Violets."  It was based on my mother's collection of leafy beauties.  I researched on and was astonished by the amazing number of varieties and colors.  At that point, I knew peyote stitch and had just learned right angle weave.   When I showed it to another beader for the first time they said, "Oh, so the leaves are brick stitch..." and I had to say I didn't know what that was.  They were my first experiment with sculpting in peyote. Both the leaves and violets were my own design, and I have since seen many similar leaves, but never quite this violet configuration, which still pleases me. The components are stitched onto a terra cotta colored, v-shaped, right angle weave base, representing the little clay pots my mom's violets call home.

I found the amazingly vast array of textures, finishes, and colors of beads very exciting, and decided to do a value study to see how the beautiful little bits of glass worked together.

At the center front of the necklace, I used the lightest possible value, white, and a deep dark green, and as I worked my way back, I darkened the value of the figure (violets) and lightened the ground (leaves) until they were equal. By the back, I had dark figures sitting on light ground. I learned SO much about how bead texture and finish affects value doing this.  It didn't work exactly the way I thought it would, and I discovered that my favorite value grouping was the one featuring the darkest figure on the lightest ground, but I have always loved yellow greens and that may have had something to do with my love of this particular group.  Someday,it will be another project, I think.

Happily, the result of my study is this great little spring necklace, like wearing your own garden of violets. It is 18 inches long and closes with a base metal toggle clasp.  My client asked for matching earrings, and I was happy to oblige with this pair.  I structured the two pieces independently, stitched each to a jumpring, and hung them from a French hook finding, so they had lovely movement, as well as just being so darn cute.

The second piece purchased was the my most recent, created for the April 2010 Etsy Beadweavers "Light as a Breeze" Challenge. It's my temporary omega piece, but certainly will not be my last for long.  I started with a beautiful piece of hand-painted lace from Etsy seller Jennie's Heirlooms in Australia at:, and bead embroidered it densely, trying to keep it as light and airy as I possibly could.  Below, you can see the first piece of lace embroidered (on the left), and the second, (right side) as it looked when I started.

I cut away the second large flower, joined the lace together and beaded the second half of the lace, and then added a delicate pearly neckstrap with a beautiful gold filigree box clasp.

Light, airy, and a springtime garden of literal neck lace. I also made simple earrings for this piece at the buyers request.  On Saturday the boxes were packed and headed south to their new owner.  I hope she will enjoy owning and displaying them as much as I loved making them!

Friday, April 23, 2010

My Favorite Christmas Gift!

  For Christmas, my mom gives each of her children $50 to spend on something we would not otherwise buy for ourselves.  When my check arrived, I carefully vowed to use it for it's intended purpose, and started thinking about what I might like.

When my Etsy Beadweavers teammate Arlene of Artful Ar on Esty listed this little gem, I loved it immediately, and it flashed into my mind as the perfect "gift-to-self."  It's not really a January piece, and I knew it would be a while before I would wear it.  Also, I had to ask Arlene to make me a small version, as my wrist is teensy, (measuring only 5 5/8" around) which she did beautifully.  Finally yesterday, with pansies popping up around my neighborhood, I wore it out to lunch with my girlfriends.  They ooh-ed and aah-ed appropriately and I was SO pleased.  Thank you Arlene.  Your bracelets are wonderful.   She makes this one both in my warm and bright colorway, and in the cool colorway in her favorites.  Check out her work today!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


This is a long and tragic story.  Not the sort of thing that makes a good blog post.  Although this story took place over a month ago, I find I am still in mourning for what I lost.  It will be a hard story to tell, but I feel the need to do so.  So here goes.  If you can hang in there, I will tell you, there is something to celebrate at the end.

The story begins with Hannah Rosner (beadweaver and glass maker extraordinaire), who was very kind to me when I joined Etsy Beadweavers. She talked to me at length about her work, and what she did to generate the constant flow of sales in her shop which I found astonishing.  She was really encouraging about my work.  We have similar educational backgrounds (both in theatrical design), and over time, we have become friends.  After I won a competition "Carpe Beadum" which featured her lampwork beads, she asked me if I would consider partnering with her for the International Society of Glass Beadmakers event called Convergence II.  This is a juried show that will feature functional, wearable jewelry, showcasing the use of handmade glass beads, and designed for a real or imaginary or historic figure.  Hannah wanted me to create a hat, similar to my "Chapeau De Peche" for a character of my choice.  I thought about it long and hard, because I had other plans for that hat idea.  In the end, I really wanted to work with Hannah, so I said YES!  We decided to use Daisy from the F. Scott Fitzgerald book, The Great Gatsby as our character, and I moved ahead with preliminary design work.   Hannah would make a glass flower, or flowers to decorate the finished cloche.

I did not remember what a tragic, complex and depressing story Gatsby is until I began trying to read it.  Poor Daisy is a total mess!  She's married to an abusive, philandering alcoholic, and as the story progresses she discovers the first love of her life, Jay Gatsby, is still very much in love with her and wants her to leave her marriage for him.  She is ultimately unable to do this, and Gastby is murdered by her husband (through a circuitous path), after she kills her husband's mistress in a hit and run accident.  She finds herself trapped hopelessly in the decadent and irresponsible life she is living, without much consideration for the lives she has ended.  As my thinking developed, I decided the hat needed to represent Daisy's youthful innocence in decay.  The book includes lots of color references, with yellow symbolically representing decay, so I decided the hat would be innocent, pearly white, with golden decay, growing on it like mold and decorating its edges.  For me, it was a powerful image to work with.

I laid out the hat in a large diamond pattern, hoping to evolke both daisy petals and Art Deco shapes, and did a couple samples.  I wanted my hat to fit lower (more cloche and less mob cap) on the head than my original, so I added to the netting on both the top and bottom of the crown as I charted, and was pleased with my new length.  I was concerned about the cost of the 24k dark gold and light matte gold delicas I wanted to use and finally ordered them in quantity at a discount from Fire Mountain Gems.  The time that had seemed so ample was rapidly growing shorter, but FINALLY the beads arrived.  I beaded the crown I had designed and stitched it together to find that the addition I had done to the top of the crown meant too many beads to fit neatly and allow the hat to drape easily on a head.  I could tap and pat them all into place, but it was not what I thought it should be.  Plus, I felt pretty strongly that this was a glass beadmakers event, and the glass bead should be the FOCAL point of the piece, and my big diamond pattern looked pretty busy to me.  I stewed about this for days, trying to move ahead with the hat band, which alone takes 22+ hours.  But my heart and soul knew I needed to rip apart the crown and redesign, regraph and reweave it.  Somehow, I kept hurting my fingers so I could not bead.  I burned them on the stove, I cut them with a knife in the dishwater, I cut the base of my thumb opening a box, something new every day, until I gave up, cut the crown apart and started again.

Now you might think that all those little injuries were the disaster, or maybe how long it took for the FMG beads to arrive, or my poor decisions about how to lengthen my pattern, but you would be wrong. 

When Hannah asked what kind of flower I wanted, I said, without giving it much thought, "A daisy, of course."  And I imagined a big shasta daisy, or group of same, like the ones in my garden.  But Hannah's idea was much smaller, and on a very thick glass bead which provided stability for the delicate petals.  When her beads arrived I looked at them and thought,"Uh oh."  I didn't think they were a good representation of the fantastic work that Hannah does, and I was afraid that the scale was wrong.  When I made the first hat, I did a grouping of small fabric passimentary flowers and they never looked right  As I researched period cloche hats, It became clear to me that there was almost always just one large embellishment, if any.  So now I had flowers on the wrong scale, with a thick back for stability which I thought was going to be unpleasantly visible if I was going to stick to the kind of simplicity of design that characterized hats from the 1920's.  And worse yet, now I had read and thought about the book, the daisy seemed wrong itself; too cute, to young, and too sweetly carefree to represent such a complicated life.

I decided I would have to fess up.  I would have to tell Hannah, "I didn't think this through and your pretty little daisy is not the right thing.   Not only is it not the right size and too thick at the back, I think it's maybe the wrong kind of flower."  I decided I would beg for an orchid.  There is lots of orchid imagery in the book.  And I knew for a fact Hannah creates orchids so beautiful they make my heart ache.  But, how would she take this.  Would I hurt her feelings?  Would she resent having to re-do this project she had already put time and energy and thought into?  Would I lose my friend?  I decided to say what I thought.  If she thought I had made the wrong hat, I would want to know.  And I didn't think her pretty little flowers were the right thing for the purpose at hand.

She was amazingly good about it, and she made me an orchid TO DIE FOR!  I finished the new crown, printed out an image of her orchid, stuck it on with a pin and I was ECSTATIC.  This was good.  It was worth the risk and the redoing.  But the band and brim still needed to be done and the due date was racing up.  I told her, "I'll do my best but I am doubting my ability to finish."  I work full time, so my beading hours are limited.  She told me how to do "Fast Peyote"  She should sell this as a tutorial, I think.  Using normal peyote, I can do just under an inch of my hat band in an hour.  Using fast peyote technique, I can do almost an inch and a half, so when added to a lengthened entry deadline, I was again hopeful.  Hannah then told me serious entries needed to have more than one glass bead.  Again, DRAT, because I was pretty convinced  the hat should just have just the one orchid, but I said, "Maybe a necklace?"  The hat display form has a neck and shoulders.  And Hannah said, "Yes," and sent me a picture of some cute little flowers she was making and I said, "Sure, make me those in those 'rotting from the inside out' colors please," and she said "I'm on it." 

So I finished the hat.  And the entry was due in a few days, and I was going to a bead camp for the weekend, but Hannah's little flowers did not arrive before I left.  Tons of beading time, and no parts.  Same song, verse two.   So I thought, "OK, at least there will be a pretty good hat."  I took a few sample photos, but white beadwork on black velvet?  Oh momma.  It looked great in person, but my camera was freaking out.  I tried one shot in natural light, and it was a little better.  So I planned to do my photography at sunset in my studio, when the light is really lovely. 

OK.  We have still not arrived at the disaster, all that was just process.  Here it comes.  Sit down.

I lay a piece of black velvet on my high cutting table.  I get the hat perfectly situated on the form.  I use a black folding display board as a backdrop.  I juggle all these things and my camera on its tripod until the light looks amazing, and then, for no knowable reason, in what seems like slow motion, the display board drifts toward the hat form, knocking it off the edge of the table onto the concrete floor.

I am screaming.  Most excellent teenager runs into my studio to see if I am dying.  The fantastic glass orchid  has shattered.

Disaster.  Real, full-blown, meaningful, inescapable disaster.  I e-mail Hannah the news, as I remember it, and then we text.  I am SO sorry and SO sad, but I can do nothing to change this.  Hannah is kind and understanding, but I am sure equally sorry and sad, if not more so, and I'd have been angry as well in her shoes. But once again, she is really big about it.  I manage to pull off a necklace in the next two days when Hannah's beads arrive and then...

Here's the GOOD NEWS.  The silver lining.  The jury process is done, and tonight the announcement is posted.  "Daisy Buchanan : Innocence in Decay" has been accepted!  Hannah has to make a new orchid, but I am so pleased that her beautiful work will be there with my humble beaded hat.  Partnership is challenging (probably Hannah would second this resoundingly!), but it pays off really well.  I'll post a couple sneak peeks in the next few days!

May 11, 2010 - And here it is, in it's final glory!  Please note the anti-tip base I applied (with the help of  The Best Man Ever) to the bottom of the display form to avert further disaster and breakage.  Doesn't Hannah's new orchid look fantastic?   The first judges comment was "gorgeous orchid" and I concur!