Friday, 17 February 2012

places to be people to see

Hands up! this is my least favourite time of year, there was plenty of winter before Christmas, but now we are into the long haul months of dreary days before spring starts. It's hard to get going but the best cure there is for the winter, it to get out there and go see something new!
Last week I was down in Dorset for an Albion Stitch day with the lovely Priory Beaders. We had a brilliant day, but there was a big surprise in store for me. After another sub zero start and icy driving conditions, I'd dived straight into the church hall to warm up and then got straight into the teaching of the beading.
So the big surprise at lunch time was to discover a sunny day and that the hall backed right onto this gorgeous stretch of water which meanders down to the sea. There were even little mini sandy beaches, complete with pebbles and shells. Although bitterly cold it was a true tonic to stand and gaze at sparkling water and breath in some sea air.

Beech Avenue
On the way home I decided that, as the sun had melted the ice off the roads, I could take the scenic route back home through the rolling hills of Dorset. My favourite bit of road in this area is a mile long avenue of trees at Kingston Lacy, planted in 1835 as a birthday present for the lady of the manor. Hmmm, 'spect she got some diamonds too? no? can picture that scenario then, 'ooh lovely thank you 1500 beech trees I will never see mature, I is touched!' Pity the poor estate workers who had the job of planting them. Nowadays, these trees are magnificently gnarly and old, the road undulates and there is a wide grass verge each side of the road. These trees are so beautiful whatever time of the you pass underneath them. In winter their branches twist our over the road in amazing patterns.  In a slightly anarchic frame of mind I can also imagine said lady of the manor being bucketed around in her horse and carriage and wishing the house had been built maybe a weeny bit nearer to the road!

Next was the winding, climbing, plummeting, narrow road up to Shaftesbury... and oh look! just in time to stop in and buy some crystals at StitchnCraft. This time it was crystal Verde Rivoli's and a top up of other goodies to complete the dragonfly kits.... nearly done... promise!

Grisaille charm to go

Grisaille Charm
 a kit to make two
 shadow and light charms
I promised to show and share.... and would have done sooner, but life gets busy and before you know it a week or even two have gone by. Those lovely monochrome beads I bought at the bead fair made it to the bead tray and I had a lovely couple of evenings trying different ideas.
To the mix of grey and white pearls and crystal, I added some matt ivory and metallic pewter seed beads. You would think that working in Grisaille would be easy, but with less colour than usual to play with, getting the texture and balance right seems more exacting, plus you get a new player at the table, shadow. I've not really noticed shadow when working with coloured beads, but it really plays a role with a monochrome palette.
I've worked the design with some sections of colour reversed out and it's amazing how different the same pattern can look just by changing the bead from light to dark. I love this shadow and light idea so much the kits will include enough beads and findings to make two charms. Grisaille Charm will be posted on the website along with a kit, including two of those lovely freshwater pearl droplets... as soon as I've written the instructions.

Monday, 6 February 2012

buying white light

So... in the quiet half hour before the bead show closed, I had that lovely time... the taking my purse for a walk treat, which inevitably leads to the choosing of gorgeous bead situation... then the acquiring of a new and enticing bead stash circumstance. This happens organically, inevitably and is the very stuff of creation for bead lovers.
The snowy landscape with the stark darkness of branches and trees against the ever changing whiteness of snow has me drawn to stands displaying these strong contrasts. Like the old adage 'shadows are not grey', I'm finding there is no such thing as white. What a playground!

Freshwater pearls
First I visit with the lovely Eleanor of bead store Twinklepieces. Her show stand has lots of things that don't always get on to the website so it's nice to stop a while and take it all in.
For my wish list I find a divine faded blue agate, carved into facet beads, it's a natural colour between fave jeans and dried cornflowers. I covet a sinfully citrus string of yellow opal cut into fine discs, shall I go on?

In the end I determine to stick to my monochrome  ideas and choose a strand of  teardrop freshwater pearls, only to discover it will probably be a one off, so however I use them will need to be strictly 'limited edition'. I don't care though because they are dancing with subtle colour changes and just one added to a kit will be a treasure shared.
My snow day inspired stash of delights

The way light changes so much is just one element I love about the transformation snow brings. Remember waking up and just knowing before the curtains were opened that it had snowed in the night? The snow light I am thinking about is not the glare of sun drenched ski slopes, more that gently uplifting brightness under pinning a clouded sky. oops, there I go waxing a bit lyrical, apologies...

To go with my divine pearls I pick out glass pearls in storm cloud grey and creamy white. They make my pearls look much more coloured. I also indulge in a naughty treat, some facet crystals in a milky white with AB finish.
the field behind our house
Now that I am back home, I'm delighted with my swag bag and the way the different finishes and textures of beads reflect the light together.
Not as magical as sparkling frost, but gorgeously lovely in their own way.
I've picked out some matt grey and ivory seed beads and am now off to load up the bead tray, find a good movie and bead away the evening in front of the fire.

If I like the results I'll show and share another day.

snow day

I had a grand day out yesterday at the London Bead Fair. Like all adventures it started at 5am in the dark, wondering whether or not to believe the weather reports. We are hopeless in the UK at coping with snow, two or three inches and we are in chaos. I am definitely not an ice road trucker so considered myself deeply brave to set off for Kempton Park the outskirts of London. The Landscape shape-changes as soon as the colours change, paint the ground softly white and what was once hidden to the eye is differently revealed. Enticing pathways into the woodlands open up, the stuff of fairytales and the foundations of magic.

image by Alex Brown... more to fascinate you here
Talking of things magical, the route takes me past Stonehenge. For me this is a familiar local landmark. When we were children we took picnics and played among the stones (now very sensibly roped off at quite some distance in a 'how very dare you' kind of way by English Heritage). These beautiful stones are so ancient, so awesomely huge and ponderously heavy... specially when you stop to think how impossibly arduous it was to have moved them inch by inch across the landscape. Viewed from the road they look quite small but are visible for miles which I guess answers the 'why put them just there?' question.

Desert Orchid by Philip Blacker
The roads were slushy but passable and empty of traffic as most people are snuggled up asleep on a midwinter sunday at 6am!).  To greet you at Kempton Park there is a statue of the lovely Desert Orchid a racehorse that had an amazing career, then won the hearts of many as a crowd loving ambassador and charity fundraiser. For some reason horsey folk like to call white horses Grey, and in some circles not knowing this can be as faux pass-ish as not knowing how to pronounce Cholmondeley or Magdalene... oh! go on then... it's Chumley and Mawdlen (no really, kid you not !).

Anyhoo I'm digressing as white grey horses bring me back to the very thing you were wondering which is...
What about the beads?
With such a stark and beautiful landscape of monochrome  in a million subtle variations to gaze at on my long drive up, I found myself drawn to certain displays of beads.
But first it was a busy day of chatting, meeting new customers, catching up with old friends and having mutual eye candy appreciation moments as we admired each others latest creations... heaven!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Hamburg bead fair classes

Double sided Daisies

I love getting new designs ready for workshops, events and publications, but the sitting and waiting until I can show and share is sometimes a really fidgety business... the more I like a design or a new thought in beads, the harder it is to keep it under wraps. The fun part, I guess, is putting it away, then setting off in a different creative direction for the next piece... essential so that no one is miffed that you've duplicated an idea or process, tricky eh?!!
At last I can show and share the pictures of the workshops I'll be teaching at the Hamburg Bead Fair in August, if you're going to the show, come join a class with me or one of the many amazing bead artists who'll be gathering to teach their designs too (feel a bead party coming on!), you can find out more here.

Summer Tassels

Anyhoo, in Hamburg I'll be showing some new Albion Stitch techniques I've been trying out, my favourite of the moment a double sided Daisy pendant. I've been working on some more ideas linked to these designs, lots of lovely new shapes and structures... which will remain top secret for a little while longer, doh! but for now I'm busy wearing a Daisy pendant which is green on one side and pink on the other, perfect for cheering up the sensible winter woolies.

The second design I'll be teaching is a delish Summer Tassel, I'm exploring different ways of layering my beadwork and this design takes Albion stitch in yet another new direction with some cunning construction. The kits for the class contain lovely polka dot dagger beads which I've been hoarding in my stash for just such a project.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Felt like a change

Being creative is often a solitary pursuit, ensconced in our studios (aka back bedrooms, sheds, corners of living rooms), absorbed in our latest projects. This, for me also usually means working under varying degrees of pressure as deadlines, show opening dates or class schedules grow ever nearer.
As a result I find it all too easy to become completely hermit like. Sometimes though, you just have to throw on a coat, run out through the door and get involved in the real world; or even better, someone else's imaginary world.
The pod that might grow
Last week I took a delicious treat of two days out to go work with a group of friends. We invited artist, illustrator and dry felt genius Gretel Parker to come give us a workshop. Armed with her camera, Gretel has put up a lovely account of the event on her blog here. That's me fourth in on the group hug photo and lurking behind Merlin the curious cat. I, of course, forgot my camera, sigh!
I'd dabbled with dry felting before, but here was a great opportunity to learn from a really talented expert. Day one saw me struggle with a strange pod like creation... which could turn into something interesting with a lot more work, some beads and a story to describe, maybe, one day.
That evening I realised I was in danger of missing out on a whole bunch of things. I had another long browse around Gretel's website, thought about everything she'd talked about that day and arrived the next morning with the fresh eyes of someone willing to be a beginner and start learning for proper.

my little ducky
I spent the whole day making a little ducky. Gretel had prepared the duck as a beginner piece. It was intriguing, and yes, it does take ages and forever to make really smooth, firm dry felting. Yes you really do felt from the outside inwards and yes it is really hard to keep pale yellow fleece clean!
Gretel's 'Tommy' with my little Ducky

At the end of day two I had finished
my own 'Gretel Parker' duck, it has pride of place in my cabinet of curiosities. I'd slowed down and actually listened to someone else, been inspired by Gretel's quirky and unique creativity and, bliss of blissfulness, escaped from my world into someone else's completely.
At the end of class Gretel gave us each a set of postcards of her creations, I'm loving Tommy the Dog.
Thanks you Gretel!