Thursday 17 October 2013

Meeting Marcia!

Hello Everyone!

I've been aware of Marcia DeCoster's amazingly intricate beadwork ever since I first started beading and I remember marvelling over her creations in my copy of Masters: Beadweaving back in 2008 before I had ever had anything published.  When I first started out, I never dreamt that I would be creating my own designs or that I would ever meet some of my beading heroes and heroines, but when I joined Facebook in 2009 (to follow an old school friend on her travels around the world) I discovered a huge online community of beaders and made a connection with several of my favourites - Marcia being one of them. We've kept in touch over the years and Marcia has always been very supportive of my work, so when I found out that she was coming to England and she asked if I would be able to meet in person ... what do you think I said?

Marcia has been teaching some workshops in The Midlands and so Simon and I drove to meet Marcia and her husband Mark at the house of their hosts, Stephney and Tim. As you can probably imagine, the boys have heard enough about beads to last them a lifetime and so they stayed in the kitchen chatting about football, prize marrows and beer, while us girls took ourselves off to the sitting room to fondle beads. Marcia had previously asked me to take LOTS of beadwork with me to show her and so I took her at her word and took two shoeboxes filled with everything from Popper Flowers to Yorkie. Marcia loves the internet just as much as I do and so as well as stroking beads she was busily taking pictures and providing her Facebook friends with a live account of proceedings via her iPad!

I made Marcia a couple of little owls as a gift and as you can see from the picture below, they were slightly alarmed by the bead orgy that surrounded them and so they remained perched on high.

Of course Mr. and Mrs Prickles are old hands at this kind of thing and so they wandered over to inspect Marcia's beautiful work without a moments hesitation. Just look at them trampling all over Marcia's gorgeous bracelet.

After a delicious lunch of homemade pizza and coleslaw, the boys headed off to a brewery museum and we went to visit a local group of ladies who were busily beading and quilting and producing all sorts of lovely work. I hadn't taken any work in progress with me, so instead I sat next to Marcia who patiently showed me how to do Cubic Right Angle Weave as she worked on samples of her newest designs. Things took a slightly unexpected turn as we got up to leave though, as Marcia dropped some of her tiny beads and we all got on our hands and knees trying to find them. Picking gold beads off a blue carpet is quite a fun game, but finding the turquoise beads was a different matter!

Next it was back to the house for another cup of tea and a bit more chat as we waited for the boys to stagger back from the brewery. As you can see, we were all having a lovely time and I am so glad that I also got to see some of Stephney's amazing beadwork too - you can't see it very well as it is behind the door, but I was particularly taken by a loomwork family tree complete with intricate beaded script.

And finally the day was drawing to a close and it was time to begin untangling the mound of beadwork on the table and to pack everything away. During the day I'd had the opportunity to handle some of the actual pieces from Marcia's new book Beads In Motion and at the end of the day, Marcia kindly signed my copy of the book which I will treasure as the perfect keepsake from a very memorable day.

See you next time!


Wednesday 9 October 2013

The sparkle shower continues!

Hello Everyone!

Remember in this blog post how I talked about the sparkles that are currently appearing in my life? And how I had decided to adjust my previously carefully mapped course and instead to raise my face, open my arms and dance in the sparkle shower while it lasted? Well, one of those 'sparkles' is my work with Preciosa Ornela and I have to say that not for one moment do I regret welcoming this particular shining opportunity into my life. My first 'assignment' was to show ways to use their Twin™ beads, next came the striped seed beads followed by the neon beads and my latest work for them uses the brand new exciting Thorn™ and Pellet™ beads.

As you know, up until recently I have been a hardcore seedbeader and so other bead shapes always make me scratch my head and wonder how to use them, but I had no problem at all with the Thorns and Pellets as they work so well alongside the seed beads. For my first design I used some silver Thorns and mixed them with some plain black seed beads to create the dramatic and spiky looking Thornstar ring and bracelet set.

The shape of the Thorn beads looked so much like petals that I thought I had to try making some flowers with them. So still mixing them with seed beads I made little flowery Thorn Daisy components and threaded three onto black satin ribbon to create a wrist corsage style bracelet. I loved the fluffy look of the centre of these flowers and they were so quick and easy to make that I also made a set of three Thorn Daisy rings.

There are lots of other experiments I would like to do with the Thorn beads but  at that time they were very new and I only had a small supply and so I moved onto playing with Pellets. I soon discovered that despite their unusual shape (kind of squat with a waist) they have LOTS of design potential. I went on to mix them with other beads but for my first piece I wanted to show how they look on their own and so out came Pellet Bangles. I love the way these beads snuggle together!

After all that dramatic beadwork I was ready to try something a little more feminine. So I chose some pale Pellets and mixed them with matte gold seed beads and pearls and a length of cream organza ribbon to create the softly romantic looking Pretty Pellets.

By that time more Pellet beads were available in a greater variety of colours and I was really drawn to the opaque red. I always love the look of black and red together and the way that the seed beads curved and ruffled around the Pellets really reminded me of a flamenco dancer's dress - hence Flamenco Pellets for my next piece.

Having discovered what nice little circles these beads make, I was keen to try them in different colours and rather than making interlocking circles I added a lovely shiny black glass pearl in the centre of each component to make the Pellet Wheel bracelet. In this piece you can really see the way the Pellets nestle into each other's waist.

Moving on from the circles I thought it would be nice to try using the Pellets in a different way and so although they naturally want to nestle, I stood them up straight and edged them with seed beads to keep them in place. There are many different colours to choose from but I thought that these turquoise and silver beads worked really well with black beads and silver findings. Diamond Pellets are very simple to make and they work up into very lightweight and easy to wear bracelets and earrings in no time!

By that point my deadlines were approaching but I still had so many beads and ideas that I had to squeeze in one more design to show yet another way to use these new beads. I also thought that I had used rather a lot of black seed beads so far and so this time I chose opaque blue Pellets and mixed them with silver seed beads and glass pearls to make the Pellet Star bracelet.

And then everything had to be quickly packaged up and sent back to Preciosa for photography. Although I try very hard to take decent pictures, I could never hope to achieve the results that the Preciosa photographer does and  I am sure you can see why I am very happy with our collaboration and why I am looking forward to my next 'assignment'. I have only used a small selection of Preciosa's photos for this blog post, but you can see the full set here. I hope you have enjoyed looking at my beady experiments and I also hope that perhaps these ideas have inspired you to purchase some of these exciting new bead shapes to see how you can incorporate them into your designs. Many of the designs shown above are destined to be shared as magazine projects in the next few months and I will of course give more details about when and where as soon as possible.

So that's it for this week and now I am off to catch another sparkle ...

See you next time!


Wednesday 2 October 2013

Prima product of the month - September!

Hello everyone!

I'm sorry about the month long silence but don't worry, I have not been idle and I have been busy meeting all sorts of beady deadlines which I hope to post about in the near future. Right now though, it is time for my Prima Bead Blog Team monthly post. Thankfully, we were given until October the 4th to complete this one which helped a lot as I only finished the last two pieces today. So despite only being October, did you know that 'Tis the Season?

Yes that's right, this month the products we were sent were all from Prima's Tis the Season range and the Prima Bloggers each received a huge box full of charms, trinkets and baubles and were asked to make an item of jewellery and a home decor item. Now when I say a huge box I mean HUGE - just take a look at what I found when I unpacked the box ...

My box was actually delayed and so I didn't receive it until last week which didn't give me much time to meet the deadline, but as it turned out, that was actually a good thing for me. If you follow my blog you will know that at heart I am a hard-core seedbeader and so my work with Prima is quite a departure from my normal work. So being short of time I decided that rather than stressing about incorporating these items into complicated beadwork, I would let that go and think up some quick and easy makes to show some ideas of ways to use these lovely items. I wouldn't enter a beading contest with the things I've made, but I would make them all for my friends and family and I think that is really what Prima wants. So ...

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love sent to me - five place cards made from various charms from Prima and some card, foil stars and a few beads from me.

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love sent to me - four pairs of earrings made from round tag charms and large hole beads and earring findings from Prima and some jump rings and ribbon from me.

On the third day of Christmas my true love sent to me - three decorative dangles made from a variety of beads and charms from Prima and some cotton thread from me.

On the second day of Christmas my true love sent to me - two sparkly baubles made from different charms and some chain from Prima and two glass baubles from me.

And on the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me - a present for under the tree made from beads and charms from Prima and a clasp from me.

So there you have it - a variety of decoration and gift ideas using the Tis the Season range from Prima! And for my next post it will be back to more complicated beadwork.

See you next time!


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!