Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Dragonflies take wing

Albion Stitch Dragonfly on Fennel stalk
The dragonfly which I created in Albion Stitch as a way to showcase how versatile it could be.... got itself a little bit famous by appearing in several magazine articles. It is also in the gallery of Albion Stitch book two. Here it is photographed on the stalk of a giant bronze Fennel in my garden.
Ma finds Fennel really hard to grow in her garden but loves the flavour, so I love to harvest the seeds for her and my sister to use in their cooking. One autumn I was diligently shaking out the seeds and oveheard two people chatting in a garden across the way, 'Well I don't know, it smells kind of aniseedy, but we definitely didn't plant it, seems to have come from over there... oh look there's some more...'. I looked up and could see a neat line of bronze fennels sprouting up through my neighbours gardens, a liine which was steadily marching across the valley in line with the gusts of wind that sweep around a nearby hill.
New Dragonfly brooch 
Gardening aside, I receive a lot of emails asking for the pattern for that dragonfly. I'd made it for an exhibition event at Swarovski London, so was a bit more showy offy than usual and added more twiddle and bling than I would normally do. I also used all sorts of bits from the 'useful beads' box, never thinking at the time that I might want to replicate the design.
When I sat down to write out the pattern I realised it would be a tricky task for both me and any poor beader presented with it, so there followed several weeks of beading and un-beading, to arrive at a readable pattern and a dragonfly just as lovely, if not an exact replica of the original.

Happily I found gorgeous Swarovski rivoli and chaton stones to replace vintage ones I'd used which are no longer available. I've used all the same stitch combinations and bead types, just in an easier to follow way.
So at last the new pattern, kit and materials packs for a Dragonfly brooch are now in the web shop.
I've loved making this design again so much, that I've already ordered beads and crystals for some lush new colourways, I'll post them in the shop as soon as the samples are done... or see them on a jacket or hat near me this summer!

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Bead show finds

Giant safety pins and felt ball beads
I was busy at the Creativa show, so didn't have too long to shop (gasp!), just time to browse and jot down the inkling of an idea here and there. I did like a lot some giant safety pins 14cm long, made from an inexpensive silvery coloured metal, perfect for displaying several beaded beads or other oversize goodies.
I was inspired by the work of Christa Saalfrank (She's just relocating so without a website I can share for you... but you can see her here in Carol Cypher's blog). Christa has taken the simple felted bead to amazing places with surface embellishment, embroidery and occasional seed bead.
I loved her approach, selling lovely hand made felted beads for you to embellish yourself, along side her stunning finished ensembles. I fell in love with about three, finding it hard to choose between sea greens and a heady mix of russets and purples.
What really caught my attention is how well her work illustrates the point that sometimes a single thing is frail and the message lost, but mass them together and they become something absolutely gorgeous, oozing character, designer style and definite desirability.
Not Christa's but a fun game to play
The jacket that wouldn't 'do up'.

It is also that lesson in perseverance, the tenacity and commitment to keep producing without knowing, until you have amassed the pieces, whether your original choices will work together.
I'm loving this whole idea, it is a very liberating way to play with colour, pattern and detail. So, on my giant safety pin I have a selection of 'Christa' inspired beaded felt beads in my fave shades of murky greens to match a lovely knitted jacket I'd been unable to wear because of that whole 'no fastening' thing that is really fashionable but not so practical.
Already I am itching to throw in some light coral, maybe a hint of turquoise, resisting the urge to rummage in the thread box... but am almost inevitably going to create a colourful tassel for the end of my pin and beaded beads to go between the felted ones.

Monday, 26 March 2012

ooh! on the cover!

I love creating designs for magazines, it's so lovely when an editor asks for something special and I get excited when I come up with new ideas, so it is Soooo hard to keep quiet until the design is published!
Chantilly Tassel
I loved designing this Tassel for Chloe at Bead magazine. This was my first go with the Swarovski Chaton (8mm), I used a simple right angle weave variation to create a layered bezel... Then just added lots of romantic strands of flowers. I even got organised and have a materials pack for this spicy coloured one and a lovely pale pink version here. So it's always lovely when having created the design, then kept really mouse quiet about it for a few months, they go and do something lovely and put it on the cover. Thank you Chloe!
Once I'd started it was utterly tempting to keep on experimenting with the Chaton stones, which is how Bella's Charm evolved too. I also realised that I could finally get on with the dragonfly design that I'd been promising for so long.

tired but inspired

Takako and I smiling for the camera
I've just emerged from the chaos that is getting back into work mode after a week away. I've been to the Creativa show in Dortmund, for a week of selling my work, meeting the amazing beaders of Germany, and teaching too. I have lots of stories, some repeatable, many not (you know who you are). Some lovely boast moments, who knew I'd be exhibiting my work next to the legend that is Huib Petersen.
But for today I'll show and share something jaw droppingly amazing.
The major exhibition was loom woven beadwork by the Japanese artist Takako Sako. I had seen and written about her amazing kabuki Theatre Kimono when it was exhibited in London, but great works become like friends so it is always a pleasure to see again now at the end of a world tour, the Kimono will now remain in Japan at the Kabuki Theatre Museum in Tokyo.
Glorious Kimono
Woven in cylinder beads, over 1.2 million of them, in loomed panels this is an astonishing piece on many levels.
For me the colours and patterns are deliciously traditional with a refreshing twist and enough delightful mixes to keep  you wanting to go back and take another look. It's fascinating to see how woven glass picks up and extends some elements of conventional woven and embroidered silks, but has reflective properties unique to loom weaving with glass as well.
Then there is the slow realisation of the sheer technical mastery required to make such a weight of glass remain fluid and sag free, and the enormity of the task in terms of hours at the loom required to weave even one of the many panels required.
Technical perfection, patterned beaded spheres.
With this show stopping creation were a row of simple belts, another of lanterns of beaded spheres and woven ribbons. Those beaded spheres caught my technical eye, more were scattered on the floor with yes, a confetti of individually beaded flower petals. The spheres measure about 15cm diameter and are perfectly spherical, completely covered with pattern and so cunningly constructed that at first, you simply cannot imagine how, beading at it's very best!
I am deeply honoured that Takako Sako, herself author of 13 books, visited my display of Albion Stitch flowers and insects and travelled home with a copy of my book, telling me that she was delighted in turn to have found, 'Something different I have not seen before'.