Do you remember Floribunda Bangle? Back in 2013 (Gulp! Was it really 7 years ago?) Preciosa Ornela gave me the opportunity to create a collection of work to showcase their striped seed beads. This was perfect timing for me because Mum had recently passed away, and having an important creative assignment that I could immerse myself in was just the thing I needed to be able to quietly process my thoughts and feelings as I came to terms with my loss. I spent several months experimenting with these beautiful beads, creating a variety of finished pieces - some wearable, some for decoration and some purely whimsical. One of the items was Floribunda Bangle.
I always knew that Flori wasn't shy. Big and bold, full of movement and fun, she was a popular girl from the moment she came to life and for several years after. She received lots of attention on social media, graced the cover of a magazine, became a calendar girl, was also selected to appear in the Playful Perfection book and even got a mention on live TV on JewelleryMaker.
Fast forward to the summer of 2019, when suddenly Preciosa Ornela asked if I could make matching earrings and a necklace so that a full Floribunda set could be used for an exhibition in Prague in 2020. I already had lots of work on at that time, but it seemed such a great privilege that of course I happily agreed. Now, I believe that 'Floribunda' is Latin for "many flowering", so I knew that to make a necklace worthy of being Floribunda Bangle's big sister would require a LOT of flowers. Of course I could have saved time and effort and made a single flower to hang on a chain, that might have looked lovely and elegant, but Flori wouldn't have approved, so I made a start.
I tried to do a rough calculation of how many flowers I would need to make, how much time I had and how many flowers I would need to make per day. However, I am not the least bit mathematically minded, and so I ended up having to make nearly double my original estimate to create a really dense cluster of flowers that encircled the neck. It took 80 flowers to fill a neckwire and to make matching earrings and each flower took approximately 1 hour to make. I beaded in the evenings, at weekends, on car journeys - every spare minute was spent working on Floribunda flowers and when I closed my eyes, all I could see were stripes!
Florence, my beautiful model, helped me a great deal. She patiently wore the part-made necklace, and at the end of each day I added a few more flowers, wondering how many I could make the next day, just how many more would I need to make and would I have enough striped beads to finish it? Beading is a wonderful satisfying pastime, but any professional beader will tell you that when the pressure is on, it can turn into something else. It was August and the UK was experiencing a heatwave, my clammy fingers kept losing a grip on the needle, the perspiration ran into my eyes, the Fireline thread cut into my fingers and made them bleed, but I had to keep going to meet the deadline. To keep me motivated, I tried to imagine a gorgeous catwalk model wearing a set of beaded jewellery that I had made.
After nearly two weeks, I was satisfied that I had made enough flowers to bunch up nicely on the neckwire and I breathed a sigh of relief. All I had to do then was make a couple more flowers for a simple pair of earrings and I was done. A few quick pictures were taken, some rough notes made and then the Floribunda necklace and earrings were carefully packaged up, ready to be sent to the Czech Republic for professional photography and to take their place in the exhibition. I crossed my fingers that everything would arrive safely.
And now, seven months later, here is the beautiful model wearing the full Floribunda set of bangle, necklace and earrings. When I look at the picture below, I can hardly believe that I am looking at my work. Despite my small frustrations during the making of the necklace and earrings, I am delighted to have been part of this, and I would like to thank Preciosa Ornela for entrusting me with this undertaking. The pieces are currently on display at the Museum of Contemporary Glass Art Portheimka in Prague, representing beads and seed beads from the PRECIOSA Traditional Czech Beads™ brand as part of the Stardust - Luxury Czech Jewellery exhibition. The exhibition runs from the 9th of March 2020 to the 14th of June 2020 and is open to the public.
I hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about what goes on behind the scenes in the making of these pieces. I am already working on the next exciting project, so watch this space ...
See you next time!