Tuesday, 31 January 2012

What To Do With All Those Leftovers: Bead Soup

Over the years I have become very lazy when I finish a project and usually end up putting all the leftover beads in a little bag and then just leave them in my drawer of randomness!  I know I should sort them all out and get the beads back in their original boxes but that just seems so dreary when my head is already full of the next project!

So I decided that I would start working my way through these small bags of 'bead soup' and see what kind of things I could make to use them up - I can't extol the virtues of bead soup projects enough! 
These two necklaces were my first attempt at getting rid of those bead soup bags.  I started with a peyote base of random seed beads and just kept on embellishing until I couldn't fit a single bead more on there.  I like the brown and green one more than the silver/red/black one but they both helped use up those pesky leftover beads.

This one was another bead soup leftover bag but just in red.  I decided to make a simple Potowatomi chain in red seed beads and then embellished the toggle and loop clasp so that it would hang at the front.  All the fizz helped disguise the clasp and used up some pretty ugly beads at the same time!

 This one was a slightly different kind of leftovers necklace, in fact these seed beads were left over from the necklace at the very top of this page!  I threaded a few beads on jump rings and then linked the jump rings to each other to make a cascade.  It's not something I'll ever do again though because opening and closing all those blooming jump rings hurt my thumbs!  I now have a huge respect for people who can sit and make chainmaille!

 This was a small bag of shell spacer beads that Mum had left over.  She thought they looked like Nestle's Smarties so made a simple peyote band with a picot edging and randomly added the shell beads.  Gorgeous isn't it?

 Another leftover soup necklace.  I don't often use gold in my beading but was bought a load of gold and brown beads.  My sister had this and said she wore it out with a posh evening frock and it looked fabulous.

 Then I had a few more of the golds and browns left so I gave them to Mummy and she made a cuff. 

 This cuff was an experiment that went horribly wrong!  There is nothing I like about this cuff at all!  The bead soup didn't do justice to the amazing focal bead so it didn't last long - it was cut up and the beads were put back in a bead soup bag for another day.  I include it only to show that not every bead soup project works!

 These three cuffs are all made on the same theme - plain silver peyote base with a picot edge to complement the larger beads in the embellishment - perfect for when you don't have a huge amount of bead soup left!

 Another red embellished cuff.
And finally, possibly my favourite of all my bead soup necklaces.  This one was given to my Nanna, along with some matching but not the same earrings (of which I didn't take a photo).  I love the bright purples with the deeper, richer iris beads and then every so often seeing a silver sparkle crystal poke out.  The movement of this piece and the jumble of beads makes me laugh every time I see it because it really does force you to look at it and then follow the beads all the way round.  It's a very chipper necklace and I know that Nanna wears it often.

Friday, 27 January 2012

The Beauty Of BeAdInfinitum

Once again my mind has gone to BeAdInfinitum and their amazing patterns.  My mum and I love making the beaded beads on their website and I thought I'd show a couple of our attempts here.

 This is a much simplified variation of Cindy Holsclaw's Circular Starburst

 Close up of the beaded bead.

A simple beaded bead using a variation on the Infinity Weave done in nothing but clear glass rounds and strung on a chiffon ribbon.  It's so simple and clean and shows what an excellent eye my mum has!

 This is a variation of the Ring Nebula that we both love to bead!

As you can see, the bead sizes have been altered significantly, subsequently altering the net bead count.  I know it's not Steampunk, but the colours remind me of the whole Steampunk movement.  

Finally we have the rather spectacular Balloon Box, which I absolutely love.  It's a bugger of a beaded bead to make though as the drop beads really want to go inside as you're making it, but my goodness it works well when they sit outside the box!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Wedding Jewellery

The summer just gone one of my staff got married and she asked me to make her wedding jewellery, as well as gifts for the bridesmaids.  We sat together and drew up some ideas and she had a good root through my finished pieces pile so she could get some ideas as well.  She had four bridesmaids, each wearing a different colour of the same dress apart from the head bridesmaid (which was her Gran!).

This is what I made for the bride to match her bouquet.  It's a slightly enlarged Ring Nebula made with Swarovski Indicolite faceted rounds and tiny size 15 beads.

I simply popped it on a silver chain with a silver heart clasp for her.

For the bridesmaids I made simple beaded beads with large Swarovski faceted rounds and the used different colours for the lace overlay.  My exceptional Mum came up with the pattern for this beaded bead and it is completely self-supporting.

Here you can really see the deep ruby overlay.

And this one in teal.

For the Gran maid of honour, she wanted me to make another of the Ring Nebulas as a brooch:

This time I used Light Amethyst Swarovski faceted rounds.

It was wonderful making wedding jewellery and I was so happy to be a small part of making her wedding day be what she wanted it to be.  All of the bridesmaids spoke to me afterwards and said how much they loved their jewellery and one of the girls commissioned me to make a few pieces for her.  Luckily she has quite bold taste so I really was able to let rip for her!

I made this asymmetric double spiral princess length rope with scores of firepolished beads and Swarovski crystals, as well as aventurine and amethyst chips for her.

In this view you can really see the spiral and how the colours peep out of the monochromatic bead soup soup.  It is definitely not a stitch for beginners!  It took quite a few stop and starts for me to get into the flow but once I got the rhythm of the stitch, it grew really fast .

This summer I have been asked by another of my colleagues to make her wedding jewellery.  I can't wait to see what she has in mind!  I'm hoping it'll be something really opulent and over the top! or maybe something refined but quite the statement like this:

This was another piece of wedding jewellery made by my Mum.  She is so delicate in her work and is everything I strive to be.  She is a huge inspiration to me and I hope one day I will be as good as she is.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Pattern Stagnation

Most beaders will have a favourite piece that they will create again and again, maybe changing the bead count a little, maybe the colour.  It's one of those traps that we can definitely fall into and end up beading nothing else.  I nearly fell into that trap about a year ago.

I made a right angle weave neckerchief in gunmetal beads (I don't have a picture of it) and sold it at a craft fair.  I really enjoyed making it and whilst I was at the craft fair, before the original sold, I had two commissions to make it in different colours for other ladies.  I could sit and bead this almost with my eyes closed and just loved making it.  Each one was slightly different but the same basic shape was always there.

Here are a couple of different examples of this pattern cul-de-sac I very nearly got caught in:

It's essentially a random edge square folded in half to give it that neckerchief look.  This one was beaded in a bead soup of greens, bronzes and golds with a 12 bead square.

This one is just one layer - essentially a really long triangle with an 8 bead square.

This one is my absolute favourite of the neckerchief series.  It's solid right angle weave in a matte bronze iris bead.  I wanted it to look more like ripped fabric than jewellery made of seed beads which is why the edges are much more random than the two above.  I had a commission to make this in a deep red matte bead as well but stupidly didn't take any photos of it.

And finally, this one was made in larger size 8 beads, solid RAW again just narrower to make it more elegant.  This was made as another commission and is my least favourite of these neckerchiefs.

I could very easily have just continued making this in slightly different ways for the next couple of years but it would have been at the expense of absolutely everything else that was simmering in the design part of my brain.  So I stopped.  I decided that I would not make another neckerchief for at least two years.  So far I'm a year into my promise and my fingers aren't itching to make another one.  Yet! 

Some Old Favourites

I'm not much of an overly decorative beader, although I am trying to really give it some pizzazz!  I seem to prefer really large statement pieces that use shape or colour as their main punch, rather than intricate and delicate embellishment.  However, I adore beadwork that is tightly packed with elegant and rhythmic embellishment, I just never seem to do any of it myself!

This is one of my favourite cabs that I've beaded.  On the first go I absolutely smothered the bezel with crystals and delica embellishment but found that the beauty of the huge quartz palmstone was getting lost in the maze of sparkles.  The stone is 7cm x 5cm and all it really needed was a plain delica bezel and a lazy herringbone rope to suspend it from.    It is extraordinarily simple in beading terms, but the sheer size of it gives it one hell of an impact!

Again, this necklace is really simple in beading terms - all it is is peyote circles linked together with the outside final two rows on each circle a lighter purple than the centre.  I like the necklace but I wish I'd done the first two inner rows a darker purple to give it more depth, rather than just relying on the repetition of the shapes...

And here we have another simple looped necklace.  This one is long (opera length) but wrapped round the bust twice.  The links are made in straightforward herringbone rope in black and gunmetal seed beads.  What gives it texture is that the black beads are size 15 and the gunmetal are size 11.  Also the links are smaller at the back of the neck and get bigger down the front - not hugely, but enough to give it a bit of interest.

This is another of my pieces that relies on impact rather than embellishment!  It started off as a bracelet but the beaded beads were so big that I had to turn it into a necklace!  I admit to going a little bit mad with colour on this one but it was a gift for one of the most colourful ladies in my life!  We were raised as sisters, even though she is actually my aunt and we have always been opposite sides of the same coin: I am dark, she is blonde; I am a tomboy where she is utterly girly.  We always joke that I always wear black because she wears all my colours for me!  She has a knack of being able to throw the most amazingly random colours together and link them with a third and have it work so I thought I'd make her something absolutely crazy in colour.  Needless to say, she absolutely loved it!

I am going to try and get into the habit of beading more intricate pieces, I really am!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Stars In Your Eyes

Don't you just hate it when a friend's birthday creeps up on you?!

Luckily, I looked at my diary and happened to flip through a few days and found it hiding at the end of the month.  I decided to make a Jean Power Geometric Star up because I know that I can bash one of those out pretty quickly whilst not paying a huge amount of attention because they're just wonderfully (and deceptively!) simple!  Hurrah for Jean.  AGAIN!

As you can see, I grabbed some plain old silver delicas and got making my components...

Two of the wonky squares joined up...

See - totally unsupported.  These stars really hold their shape!

All joined up and finished off!  I think I shall pop a jump ring through the tip of the star and suspend it on some chunky silver chain about boob length as she quite likes long necklaces.  Phew!

Teaching Beading

I love teaching people to bead and really enjoy seeing their confidence grow and their design style emerge alongside their increased technical ability.  I feel a mixture of pride and sadness when they no longer need me any more; sadness because I enjoy getting to know them and our conversations (sometimes they're more like therapy sessions!) whilst beading, and pride because they no longer need me!  I am really lucky that my students keep in contact with me and they will often pop round for a cuppa and an evening of beading together.
Every Tuesday I teach a lovely lady called Kathy beading.  She is relatively new to it but tries very hard and has come on in leaps and bounds over the two months I have taught her.

She came to me after having taken a few day classes and had bought swathes of beads but could not follow patterns very easily, nor was her tension very good.  The first thing I taught her was a different way of holding her beadwork so that she could maintain tension (and nagged her an awful lot about it too!) and then we moved on to various stitches.  So far I have taught her all the basic permutations of herringbone stitch - especially herringbone rope and twisted herringbone rope, right angle weave and we have done a few simple beaded beads, both supported and unsupported. 

Last lesson she was telling me about a friend of hers who us undergoing a second bout of chemotherapy for breast cancer so I suggested we make something for her to cheer her up a little.  Kathy talked about how this lady's faith was really important to her so we had a little brainstorm and decided to make a very simple cross in right angle weave.

This is the basic pattern I came up with.  An extraordinarily simple right angle weave cross in two layers and then joined along the edges as she struggled with cubic RAW, then stiffened with seed beads around the edge.

Kathy chose to do hers in shades of deep red to put on a simple rope of strung garnets.

The other side is a slightly lighter shade of red and she has to add the seed bead edging for her homework to stiffen it up.

I hope she is proud of herself for doing this and that it not only cheers her friend up, but that it brings her solace whilst she's undergoing the chemo.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

The Amazingly Inspirational Jean Power

Jean Power is one of my most favourite beadwork artists - possibly number one.  I love her use of geometry and the fact that her patterns are so easy to follow and cheap as chips to boot!  For a long time I just drooled whenever I saw any of her pieces in magazines and then I found her website.  Oh my!  So much to choose from and so many colour ways to bead these wonderful objects.

I decided to start slowly and ordered her Rainbow Skulls pattern first and I made one each for my cousin and her daughter as phone dangles:
How cute are they?!  I made these in all sorts of colours for practically everyone I knew.  I have one on my Sony eReader in opaque turquoise and black and whenever anyone new sees it they pretty much always ask if I can make one for them.  They make fantastic stocking fillers and little presents.

After finding the way Jean sets out her patterns to be so unbelievably simple and thoroughly easy to follow I decided to take the plunge and bought her Geometric Series Set - an absolute steal at only £24!  Again, these patterns were so easy to follow that I started by making the Geometric 3-4-1 Triangle bracelet:
As soon as I'd finished this one I went straight ahead and started another!  It felt really Mary Quant-esque to me so I made it up in contrasting black and white.  Unfortunately I don't have a picture of the finished piece any more as I made it as a gift for a friend but here it is in progress:
Then I thought I'd try my hand at the Geometric Stars necklace...  Oh my goodness!  For a collar that looks so difficult, the pattern is an absolute dream!  Again, I'm an idiot because I forgot to take a picture of it before it became a Christmas present for a very dear friend but my Mum beaded it as well.  Where hers is red and silver, mine was only silver:
I tried it in delica beads and was amazed with just how sturdy these stars can be, and so pretty that I think they look fabulous simply strung:
Close up of the star in seed beads:
Finally, and most recently, I saw the beautiful Miriam Bangle and thought it was absolutely gorgeous.  A while back I had made my Nanna a plain peyote rope necklace in silver with a line of red beads spiralling round it and thought I would see if I could make a version of this to go with it as a Christmas present this year.  I bought myself a couple of Swarovski rivolis, some memory wire and (most importantly!) some remote control helicopter fuel line to keep the tube in shape.
As you can see, I wasn't quite so confident on the rounds to start the spiral from the rivoli so I started it where the rivoli joins the tube.
It was soooooo boring doing the peyote rope, and tweeted Jean to tell her (follow her on Twitter - @jeanpower) and she definitely kept my chin up with her encouragement. It took a while to finish (mainly because I kept drinking red wine rather than beading) but finish it I did and here it is!
Nanna loved it, and that made me very happy!

In all, if you bead, I urge you to visit Jean's website and spent some time drooling over her work, read her blog and see all the pretties that she makes then order some of her patterns - they may look difficult but if you know the basics in peyote, you're already onto a winner!  I know that me and my credit card are waiting with bated breath, ready to order when she releases her faux cro instructions!