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Thursday, April 28, 2011

One for My Son Zak

When I announced the May theme for the Etsy Beadweavers May 2011 Challenge at the dinner table, my boys were thrilled. Both my husband Carl, (The Best Man Ever) and my son Zak (Most Excellent Teenager) are big Lord of the Rings fans, and Zak knew just what the inspiration for my challenge piece should be. He wanted to see what I would create, based on a character called a Balrog. I am so proud of my son, who will graduate from High School this spring, that I decided to do my best to honor him with this piece.

As I worked, I frequently asked Zak for description. I know that the artist who chose this challenge felt that only the book should serve as inspiration, and Zak has read them all.  I also purposefully didn't seek out images until I was finished. Here's what I found today, with thanks to Google Images.

According to Zak, a Balrog is a tall creature of shadow and fire. It is epic and ancient, like a titan. Its presence is felt as much as seen, and it is an embodiment of evil. Zak mentioned shadowy wings and a fiery whip, and horns that curved down, all of which I see here, and very much as I envisioned them from his description. He also mentioned a sword. He said in anger, the creature flames. A flaming necklace!

I wanted the necklace to be tall, but not solid, as I wanted to try to create the insubstantial shadowy aspect. I used large Swarovski jewels, in Cathedral, Magma, Crystal Copper and Ultra Orange to represent the flames and matte black cylinder and seed beads to bezel the jewels, encasing my "embers" in ash and charcoal. Those matte black Czech Firepolish beads actually felt like coal in my fingers! I tried to imagine wings unfurled as I joined the bezeled jewels.

I wanted lines that drooped, as I imagined the horns did, and created those with the draped sections of coal black Czech firepolish beads. I tried to create the flame-like whip imagery with graded bicone tassles in flame colors.

Photographing black beadwork is REALLY a challenge.  Realistically, I am not a very skilled photographer, so I find all photography challenging, but this is over the top for me. I believe I read somewhere that the bead magazines will not accept black work due to the difficulty of photographing it. So I am certainly struggling!  I did finally find an angle that would let me see into the jewels without a ridiculous amount of reflected shine. 

Now, a few words about my splendid son. Zak is a National Merit Scholarship Finalist. He has earned a full ride scholarship to the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences, and a place in the Honors program as well. He is also an AP scholar. Can you see why I am so proud? This one is for you, Zak!

OH!  I almost forgot to mention, once again, all the the Swarovski jewel components in this necklace came form my friend Doris Coghill.  She's got a WONDERFUL selection of interesting and unusual things, at reasonable prices.  Visit her rivolis and jewels at :

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lemonade from Lemons

I did start with a sketch.  But not a very detailed one.  This lilac necklace idea was so exciting I really didn't want to spend time in two dimensions with it.  I wanted to get right to the 3D part I love!  So although I thought about color, I didn't ever sketch in color.  I think that would have changed my mind, but hindsight is always 20/20.  If I had REALLY considered how busy this piece would be with 4 colors, TONS of texture, frenetic lines, and complex shapes, I'd have RE-considered.  But I didn't.

I didn't enter Bead Dreams last year because I was involved in a complex and time consuming piece with Hannah Rosner for the ISGB exhibit Convergence II, Adorning the Past, Present and Pretend.  So this year, I thought the time was ripe to collect a second rejection letter, and I planned to do that with the lilac piece I had envisioned.  Somehow, my day job got really busy.  So I worked in fits and bits and starts, assembling parts and making components, without ever laying them all out together to see how I was doing.  That would have helped too.

I arrived at the end of March with 72 4-petaled lilac flowerettes in three colors, 9 lilac leaves in various sizes and two different neckstraps, neither of which I was in love with.  The little flowerettes and leaves reminded me of my son's video game, Pikmin.  They seemed to flock on my bench like the little "floral militia" commanded by Captain Olimar.  If you have seen this game, I bet you know exactly what I mean.

Unfortunately, when I assembled the three colors of flowerettes into blossoms and laid them out together it was painfully obvious that that multi-colored blossoms were an unfortunate choice. There was way too much going on. (Note to self, next time, sketch in color!!!)

But all was not lost. There was the Etsy Beadweavers April challenge, with the serendipitous theme, "Spring Around the Corner" on the horizon, and I could take one of pretty awesome  blossoms and make a simpler necklace. So I put one together, using the least disliked neckstrap, but drat, I just didn't like that strap, (see the little ripple on the left side where it does not want to lay flat?) plus the blossom was not proportionately long enough.
So I listed it, because I know I am obsessive-compulsive and fairly hard on myself, and it wasn't terrible. It had potential for greatness. :o)  And then I began a race with the clock to make a new neckstrap I could like, and a longer blossom configuration, requiring several more flowerettes.  And, pwhew, at 10:30 ish on the evening of the 5th of April, minutes before the entry deadline, I posted the new piece, and I am SO happy with it.  And best of all, I can now make two more, a lovely pink one, and a pale lilac one.  Lemonade from lemons!