Friday, 30 August 2013

Prima product of the month - August!

Hello everyone!

It's time for my Prima Bead Blog Team monthly post and I have to say that this month has been quite a challenge for me. First of all the 'products of the month' were from Prima's Kumihimo range and although I have read about this Japanese art of braid making (Kumihimo literally means 'gathered threads') I have never actually tried it and so I spent several nervous days panicking about what kind of misshapen rabbit I might be able to pull out of my hat. Secondly, I have spent the last few weeks away from home, staying at my father's house, trying to sort out some more of Mum's stuff and trying to get used to the fact that no matter how hard I stare at the rose arch that leads down the garden, her beautiful smiling face will no longer appear there. It hasn't all been hard work and tears though - I have been for lots of long walks down the leafy lanes, had some lovely trips to the coast and managed to fit in some beading time nearly every day. In fact, once I got the hang of it, I actually found the repetitive nature of the Kumihimo to be very soothing and so this time has definitely shaped the end results of my braiding experiments. Before I started I spent some time asking questions, following up valuable links that my Facebook friends kindly sent me, researching, Googling and watching how-to videos and then I boldly warped up ...

My first piece 'Autumn Sunset' was directly inspired by walks along Chapel Lane which runs past the house. It's a lovely little country lane with a huge variety of wildflowers growing in the verges, only a few cars a day travel down this lane and so you can walk in the middle of the road while butterflies flit around you and birds merrily chirrup and tweet. At this time of year the hedgerows are covered with dark purple sloes, pinky red hawthorn berries, orange rosehips and juicy blackberries. When I opened the Prima pack the rustic looking brown cord the bright orange acrylic beads and the gold metallic thread made me think of the lane and its berry laden hedges glowing in the Autumn sunshine. I added one strand of orange embroidery thread to my braid to pick out the colour of my 'berries', created golden beaded endcaps with a matching central connector to hold the two sections of braid together and fastened it with findings from the Prima range before adding a bunch of orange berries as the finishing touch. With its mix of streamlined beadwork and rufty-tufty braid, this is a very different piece for me but I am pleased with the way it turned out as I think it captures the feel of those hedgerows with their crispy leaves, bits of brown twig sticking out at all angles and smooth sun-ripened berries.

My second piece 'Maritime Chic' was inspired by trips to Dungeness and Rye Harbour (which are both on the coast) and as I wandered past the fishing boats looking at piles of coiled rope, fishing nets and lobster pots I was reminded of the tan and silver twist cord from Prima which was waiting for me to do something with it. I kept this one really simple and created a couple of lashed loops at either end to give a feel of rope and rigging and knots. Using the silver rondelles I added three simple beaded circles and a couple of finishing touch dangles to try and pick out the silver in the cord and to add some fiddle factor to the finished bracelet.

With a couple of pieces under my belt I was feeling ready to attempt adding beads to my braid and so using size 8 beads from my stash I made the very simple 'Moonlight Braid' bracelet. I am not keen on using glue in my work and so I made a couple of beaded endcaps to hide the knots in the braiding and topped it off with a silver toggle clasp. If you follow my blog you will know that I recently spent 14 months beading in this one colour of beads creating my Midnight Garden collection and after all my recent neon work it felt good to have them running through my fingers again.

Still wanting to mix beads and braiding without using glue I made a pair of quick and easy 'Kumihimo Blooms' earrings. As you can see from the photo above, I was directly inspired by the campanula flowers that are one of the few things left over from Mum's beautiful garden. These little flowers are blooming everywhere with their bright little heads bobbing and swinging from every hanging basket (along with all manner of naughty weeds that Mum would never have tolerated) and so I thought that creating a small tubular flower and threading it on to a short length of green braid would give a similar effect.

Still on a floral theme, my final Kumihimo piece 'Flowercup Cascade' is much more my usual style and uses a mixture of seed beads and some beautiful glass Flower Cups from yorkbeads which I have had for some time but never got round to using before. I was really pleased with the way the flowers and seed beads braided together and I can't really think of another beadweaving stitch that would have created this effect and so I guess that makes me a Kumihimo convert! Despite my initial reservations I will definitely be doing more Kumihimo and I have other ideas of ways I can use it in my designs. Thank you Prima Bead for introducing me to something I might never have otherwise tried.

See you next time!


Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Neon News (and sparkles do not last forever) ...

Hello Everyone!

Following on from my big stripe reveal a couple of weeks ago, I have more news as Preciosa have now sent out their August newsletter showing all the pieces I made with their neon beads during May and June of this year. Preciosa very kindly linked to my Midnight Garden work and that prompted one or two people to ask about the garden and what happened to it and whether I have abandoned it, so I'd like to reassure my readers that everything is as it should be. In true fairytale style, the garden has been temporarily frozen while the gardener (that's me!) juggles lots of sparkly things that have been sent her way. Sparkles do not last forever and should be accepted with playful delight when they appear. When the sparkles begin to dim, I will contentedly return to my Midnight Garden. BUT in the meantime ... ta da!

When I first opened the package of neon beads it truly was like lifting the lid on a box of sunshine and I was a little apprehensive about where to start. Neon beads are very 'now' and I have seen several people say that neons are not for them and to be honest, I may have said the same thing a few months ago (after all I am a middle aged woman not a teenager!) but it is my job to show alternative ways of using beads and hopefully to inspire and so here is my neon collection. First of all I made a little trio of bracelets using the pink, orange and yellow neon seed beads:

Next I began experimenting with the Farfalle and as I haven't worked with these before I decided to keep it simple and created a set of roll on/roll off bangles. I chose the green Farfalle as a base and added the yellow, orange and pink seed beads as I thought it gave them the look of fruit or flowers amongst the foliage:

By then I was really getting into the swing of the neon beads and so I decided to make a much bolder bracelet to really try and capture the neon summer moment. For this one I mixed the neon Twin ™ beads with seed beads and pearls to create a floral explosion which I named Tropicana Cuff. The piece was used in the Preciosa advert in issue 57 of Making Jewellery magazine:

After having mixed Farfalle with seed beads and Twins ™ with seed beads I thought it would be good to try and mix all three bead shapes in a single piece. I chose the green and orange beads as I think these colours go together so well, but when I started working with the long orange Twins ™ and the round green seed beads and the piece gradually expanded, all I could think was that they reminded me of a plateful of peas and carrots and so that name stuck and here is Peas and Carrots bracelet:

Pink and orange was another colour combination that really appealed to me and so for the next piece I decided to concentrate on using the pink and orange seed beads but toned them down a bit with the use of black seed beads, pearls and ribbon which resulted in Jardin De Cancan:

And by then I was running out of time but I still had lots of lovely beads crying out to be sewn together and so as I enjoyed the look of mixing black beads and neon beads, I whipped up a set of three flower pins.  This is where I think neons could be worn at any time of year by any age. Imagine how a single Neon Nights pin, with their stained glass effect, would liven up a simple black jacket in deepest darkest winter!

So there you have it - the results of my neon experiments and where two months of my life went! The beads I was given to work with are actually the opaque neon beads and so despite looking very bright when they are in their original bags, they have a lovely soft matte feel to them and the yellow neon beads seemed to be amost a primrose yellow. I found these beads to be a joy to work with and I hope that my experiments will perhaps inspire you to look at neon beads in a new light. Some of these pieces will appear as projects in future issues of various beading magazines so be sure to use the 'Follow by Email' box at the top of my blog if you want to be kept informed of all the latest beady news.

See you next time!


Monday, 29 July 2013

Prima Bead product of the month - July!

Hello everyone!

Do you remember me telling you about the new Prima Bead Blog Team and how our first products to review were items from the new Stainless Steel Elegance range? Well with just two days to spare I have completed my first task using 7 of the 8 stainless steel products that were sent to me.  If you follow my blog you will know that my real passion involves weaving hundreds of teeny tiny seed beads into various weird and wonderful shapes, but as there wasn't a single solitary seed bead in the welcome pack I received from Prima Bead I had to change tack and blow the dust off my pliers. First of all I made a fun pair of earrings which I have called 'Inspirational Dangles'.

The ingredients for these joyful little earrings that swing and dance as you walk are:

As I still had quite a lot of the circle link chain left, I decided to make another pair of swinging earrings but this time I snuck in a little bit of beadweaving too, using my free Gumdrops In My Garden pattern from Bead & Button magazine.

The ingredients for these cute summery earrings are:

And finally I used up the last of the chain, the third style of earring findings, the stainless steel round beads and a couple of lovely metal accent beads from the welcome pack to create a pin, ring and earring set which I've called City Nights.

The ingredients for this stylish urban set are:

So the only thing I didn't manage to use this time around were the spring ring clasps but let's wait and see what the August product of the month is - maybe I will manage to incorporate them into something next month.

I had a lot of fun working out what to make with these beautiful Stainless Steel Elegance items and I hope that my little makes will inspire you to experiment too. The high quality findings were all a pleasure to work with and although sterling silver would normally have been my metal of choice, I would definitely work with stainless steel again as despite taking more effort to manipulate than silver, it has a lovely look and feel to it and I like the slightly edgy look it lends to designs. Of course being non-tarnish and hypoallergenic is a plus point too.

If you would like to keep up with my beady news, be sure to complete the 'Follow by Email' box at the top of my blog.

See you next time!


Saturday, 20 July 2013

Stripe Mania!

Hello everyone!

This is going to be an unusual post from me because firstly this is the second post in one week (I'm normally a sporadic blogger) and secondly because it will be very long as I have been saving up lots to say! I have been working as a kind of ambassador for the giant Czech Republic based bead manufacturer Preciosa Ornela for almost a year now and my first assignment was to work with their Twin™ seed beads which I blogged about here and Preciosa wrote about here. My next task was to work with their range of striped seed beads and I spent many weeks between January and May experimenting and trying to create a collection that would showcase their diversity and potential. Although I have been able to show a few of my striped pieces that either appeared in magazine adverts or projects, I was asked not to show the full collection until Preciosa had chance to photograph the pieces and write an article for their website about our collaboration, which they have now done and you can see it here.

Although I have built up a vast collection of seed beads, I did not possess one single striped bead and until I started working with them I had no idea of the beautiful range of colours and finishes available - from the basic blue and white striped bead to shade number 94050 that is technically a boring sounding brown with a black and white stripe but actually looks like a gorgeous shiny maroon with an ab finish. I also discovered what interesting effects you can create by using striped beads and it was quite a lesson to me how different a bag of unassuming striped beads can look when herringboned or brick stitched together. I can happily say that I am a complete convert to the Czech glass striped seed bead and I will certainly be using them again in the future! The first striped pieces I created were three critters - Flash the owl, Podger the rabbit and Crusty (the fox with the LONG tail and the SHORT temper). I used solely blue and white striped beads for these as I was inspired by the Chinese blue and white porcelain animal shaped beads I had seen. I have to say that I am really happy with the way these turned out and how they all seem to have their own personalities. Little Flash was lucky enough to appear in a full page advert in Beadstyle magazine and Digital Beading Magazine.

My next experiments with stripe beads resulted in Stripes in Bloom. I fell in love with these purply blue beads with the thin white stripes as soon as I saw them and I thought that paired with the green beads with the yellow stripe they would make a striking floral brooch/pin. It just so happened that I had a Czech glass button in my collection with the same colours in it and so I used that as an eye-catching centrepiece. This piece appeared in an advert in Bead & Button magazine

As St. Valentine's Day was fast approaching I was inspired to make some simple folksy Rustic Hearts next. These use size 6 beads so they are quite large, but with a narrow strip of ribbon threaded through the top they make nice little home decoration ornaments.

Next in line it was Floribunda Bangle - a big bold statement piece that uses a mixture of white based beads with a thin coloured stripe of either red, blue or green. I often like to make jewellery that can be worn in more than one way and these flowers (half red with a blue stripe and half blue with a red stripe but all with a green stem) can be slipped onto a bangle and worn as a full floral display or you can wear just a few or even a single one on a chain as a pretty pendant. You can find the instructions for this piece in issue 3 of  Digital Beading Magazine and it also appears on the cover.

While making the flowers for Floribunda Bangle I had some ideas for other shapes of flowers and as I still had lots of brightly coloured stripe beads that I hadn't had chance to use, I decided to make Podger an ornamental garden. There are twelve tasty flowers in Podger's Garden and each one is a slightly different shape and all of them are freestanding which means that they can be moved around to create different scenes.

In April I took a big bag of striped beads with me to Spain for a couple of weeks (and yes, I did get stopped by bemused customs officials at the airport) and whilst enjoying the sunshine I whipped up a couple more stripey creations. Despite being surrounded by the vibrant colours of the Spanish flora and fauna, the first piece I made was a monochrome necklace: Czecherboard Vine. I really enjoyed working with these beads as they have a matte finish which is so soft and smooth that they are not only lovely to work with but feel great against the skin when worn too.

The green and yellow beads I used for Stripes in Bloom seemed to lend themselves to making realistic looking knobbly vines and leaves and so (still in Spain) I went back to colour and made a matching necklace and bracelet: Stripitwisticus Major and Stripitwisticus Minor.

By the time I returned home from Spain I had hardly any time left to finish working with the striped seed beads but I still had some beads that I hadn't got around to using - remember those 94050 brown beads with the black and white stripe? Well hopefully Pinstripe Petals and Sliding Stripes show you just what a beautiful finish these beads have. If I could only pick one striped bead, it would be these.

Well that's my news with lots of pretty pictures of what I was up to during those missing months! I hope you enjoy the results of my beady efforts with these Czech glass striped beads - let me know which one is your favourite piece and whether these will perhaps inspire you to do some stripey experiments of your own.

See you next time!


Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Prima Bead Blog Team!

Hello everyone!

Despite being a frantically busy beader, I have accepted yet another challenge that I found just too good to resist and I am happy to announce that I'm now a Prima Bead Blog Team member! So what does this mean and how does it work?

Well, firstly Prima Bead is a division of the large US based Cousin Corporation which specialises in jewellery making supplies and they have created this brand new team to tell the world about their products. There are 10 team members - 8 are based in the US, 1 member lives in Canada and then there's me in the UK.  Each member is an experienced blogger and has a passion for craft and design and although we all have very different styles we will all be sent the same product each month to review. See the Prima Bead Blogger Team links on my sidebar to learn about the other members and to visit their beautiful blogs - be sure to visit them all regularly to keep up with the news and to see what we all make from the same set of items.  The first products we have been asked to review are items from their non-tarnish hypoallergenic Stainless Steel Elements range.

Yesterday I received my 'Welcome Pack' from Prima and as you can see they have certainly made us all feel very welcome! But let's be honest here ... although I am thrilled to be part of the team and I love receiving beady bounty ... there is not one single seed bead in that box! If you follow my blog you will know that seed beads are my thing and so you might be wondering what I have got myself into, but you will also know that there is nothing I like better than a challenge. Remember the time Beads Direct challenged me to make something with a mystery pack or when they asked me to review their Art Clay Silver Masterclass? Or what about when E-Beads (now I-Beads) challenged me to make their logo in beads? That was a tough one! And then of course there was the time The Beadsmith invited me to use some of their clasps in my work and more recently I have been thinking up ideas to showcase Preciosa's range of beads.  So although I will admit to being nervous about this new venture, I am no stranger to this type of work and so I am very excited and I can hardly wait to dive into that wonderful 'Welcome Pack' and get the cogs of my beady brain turning.

See you soon with more beading news!

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Fab Four!

Hello everyone!

The latest issue of Digital Beading Magazine is now available and although I don't have a project in this one, I do have a slot in their regular 'Fab Four' feature alongside Edgar Lopez, Aurelio Castano and Lucy Duckham.

So if you want to read my answers to questions such as 'What do you enjoy most about the creative process?' or 'What were your early beaded creations like?' or even 'Tell us about your work with Preciosa?' then follow this link to purchase your copy of the latest issue. It is packed with a wide range of inspirational projects and at $US4.95 for 163 pages it's great value for money too!

See you soon with more beady news!


Friday, 14 June 2013

Three patterns on one CD!

Hello everyone!

It might seem a bit quiet around here lately but rest assured, a LOT of beading is being done. I'm still working with various companies trying to come up with designs to show ways to use their products and although this is great fun and an exciting challenge for me, it means that pictures of new beadwork are few and far between at the moment.  I have at least ten pieces waiting in the wings but I have to keep them under wraps for the time being - but I can tell you that before too long there will be a colour explosion and I will be bombarding you with picture after picture!  So until that time all I can tell you is that I have just added a new PDF to my website and you can purchase it by following this link.

The PDF includes three of my patterns that were previously published in Digital Beading Magazine: Simply Spikes, Galactic Gumdrops and Bohemian Bloom. It is twenty pages long and also includes a fascinating bonus article about hybrid seed beads written by Perry Bookstein of I have set the price of this bundle to £5 for all three patterns as they are magazine versions and are therefore not as minutely detailed as the other patterns I sell. I would also like to mention that these PDF's were designed for online viewing rather than for print.

So that's it for now but I'll be back soon with lots of new pictures, but a word of warning ... you might need some sunglasses before you look at my latest work!

Bye for now!