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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

From the Forest of Fairy Tales

I am proud to present my 2nd Place Ribbon Winning Bead Dreams 2014 entry, in Ms. Maddie's Fabulous Florals category, From the Forest of Fairy Tales!

I had pretty much given up on this beading project.  I love doing big pieces, but it is always a challenge to wedge them into my evenings and weekends.  I had a really tough fall and early winter due to accepting more costume projects than my schedule allowed.  Finally, when all the ballgowns were dancing around the competition floor, I got back to my beading bench in late January. 

I had originally been inspired by a fall trip to Yellowstone Park.  I love how completely wierd the park is; unexpected, unreal, and sometimes just insanely beautiful.  The colors are rich and intense.  I don't know if you have ever seen any of the geyser basins and thermal features but they are pretty amazing.  This particular one (Grand Prismatic Spring) is a really good example of the incredible look and colors of the place.

I tried to get that amazing range of hues into the work.  I wanted to capture the vibrant aqua of the water and the sulphur orange edges, the golden stone framework (they call it YELLOWstone Park for a reason!) surrounding everything, and the dark, prickly outlines of the forest, with the understory of autumn color beginning to appear beneath the blue spruce trees.  It is so different from autumn in a deciduous forest!

So I chose some Swarovski jewels and some Lunasoft cabochons, a yummy druzy, and used some "yellowstone" 24k rainbow gold bezels and made a little prickly, color-shifting understory!

In the dead of Winter, when I got back to work on this project, I happened to see a trailer for the new Disney movie, "Maleficent."  The film is a retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story from the perspective of the uninvited fairy, who curses Princess Aurora at her christening party. You can see the trailer here, if you like.  I was both terrified and entranced by this fairy-gone-bad character as a child, and in my mind, she fit magnificently into the wonder and weirdness of Yellowstone.

The idea of adding Maleficent to the inspiration pot for this piece was so exciting I went directly to my costume studio after seeing the trailer.  I got out a piece of pellon and drafted and draped a shaped collar I thought might suit the maladjusted fairy.  

Then I raced back upstairs and pulled out all the bead backing I owned.  None of it was a perfect base color, so I fused some jade lycra to it, chopped out my pattern, (which happened just to fit on the backing...loads of serendipity here!) and stitched the thing together, without any particular consideration for how I might embellish it.

Fortunately, the jewels I had been working with sat nicely on the collar, and the cluster of components I had already finished  looked good dangling from it, with the drusy resting neatly in the center of the chest, representing Maleficent's once beautiful heart, turned to stone.

Then, as I thought about how to embellish the collar, I was reminded that I have relatively little experience with bead embroidery.  Probably not the best choice for a competition piece, but it was also liberating.  Ignorance really can be blissful!  Also, had I not done my Crazy Quilt Cozy Collar, I don't know if this idea would have been so accessible and appealing to me.  I made up means to suit my purposes as I went along.  For example, I wanted the embroidery-applied jewels to look like the beadwoven-bezelled ones in the dangling focal cluster, so I did the bezels the same way, working just the tops, and then stitching them down on to the glued-in-place jewels and cabs.  I don't think that is your typical bead embroidery bezel process, but it achieved the effect I was looking for. As I worked, I also dropped the central pendant cluster a little lower, to further feature the edges of each component.

Finally I set out to fill in much of the remaining space with Maleficient's enchanted fairy tale forest, attempting to capture the prolific abundance of nature.  I sought "overgrown", "dangerous", and "beautiful" imagery in my work, keeping Yellowstone in mind.  I dug out every flower and leaf bead I owned, and ran out to buy more in appropriate colors.  I made more of my thorny beadwoven leaves too.  Their shape happened to match the curves I had created for the collar, so they became the spines of the collar points.

A last battle with how to stitch together the lower component was resolved with some little bits of foam rubber, to hold the elements in place while I worked. I wanted it to be the case that only a spider web held that stone cold heart in place.  (Check the final photo for the results)

And now for the final results...

I ended up moving the lower component even further from the upper to allow room for my spidery-looking flower tassles, and to keep the shapes of the edges clearly visible.  Not sure I love the connection, which I did several different ways over the last week of the time alloted.  I don't know if a better solution could have been possible without a re-design of that area, and that was not an option.

The back features some purchased (and heavily embelllished) Dritz frogs as a closure.  I think they work nicely with the piece aesthetically, but two of them have fat knots and are hard to open and close.  Sigh.  They work, but I wish they all worked as easily as the bottom-most one. Perhaps I should learn to make my own beaded ones, eh??

I am pleased with my little spiderweb structural connection in the lower component.  :)  In retrospect, I wish I had backed the jewels and Lunas with the same leather as the collar, but they were finished before the collar was designed, so the original ultrasuede will have to suffice.  I do not have much experience working with leather, but was glad I remembered seams have to be glued open, or it would have been impossible to stitch the backing in place.  I'd love to do this again and perfect the structural ideas and techniques.