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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!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Steven Weiss of Beadsmith invited me to create using the new Miyuki Baroque beads and a beautiful Golem Cabochon.  I really enjoyed working with both, and am happy with my results!  There is an entire fB page devoted to this awesome Golem/Miyuki combination. and I invite you to view all the beatuiful design work here!

I loved the Golem cabochon, by Vladislav Ivanov, and (thanks to percise calibration on his part) I was able to begin with a most magical number in my bezel base row, 96, that divides evenly FOUR times and is also divide-able by 3, 4, 6 and 12.  I was in 7th heaven.  (Wonder why heaven is seventh?  Primes are abysmal beady numbers!)  So because it was possible to do so, I got totally carried away with that bezel, allowing the cab imagery to dictate my progress.  I think the result kinda blends with the cab to the point of visual question about where one ends and the other begins.  After I had played for a few rounds, I decided I would cover the through hole, and just feature the beadweaving and the gorgeous Golem graphics.

Then I created my strap, using a base of my favorite stitch triangle weave and embellishing with square stitch, and variations thereof.  I was happy to add a few super duo beads to the mix and  was really pleased with the Miyuki Baroque beads.  The texture is almost that of a Baroque pearl, and somehow makes it possible for the result to have both a relaxed and an elegant feel.  Pearls themselves are really hard to dress down, so what a great finish!

After working the strap, I wanted to add some of the drop components to the bezel, but didn't really want the focal piece to get bigger.  In playing with the embellishment, I discovered a way to make the drop components curl back over the cab, and the result looked like an artichoke to me, hence the name for the work!
I also loved the Golem maker's mark, and wanted to be sure it was visible in my end result, so here it is for you to see.  Now I need to go and shopping and find the perfect thing to wear with this for the Bead and Button show!  I think my little olive accent beads should inform that purchase!