Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Solstice and sparkle

Solsice sun
So 2103, what a roller coaster of a year! My first ever Bead & Button show, teaching trips to the USA, Hamburg, Bonn and Cologne, and many more lovely classes full of students here in the UK.
A year full of old and new friends, lots of new beads, ideas and inspiration. I danced all night when Bruce Springsteen came to town and sang along so hard I lost my voice for a day or two. I saw legendary Fleetwood Mac live in London, where Christine McVie came onto the stage for just one beautiful song.
There were low points too, the hard times when you just have to go on smiling and being kind whilst feeling buffeted as one wave after another rolled over me and mine. Sometimes surfing, sometimes catching a crab.
But now is the quiet time, between the year end and the whole party revving up again for next year. Time to reflect on the highs and lows and resolve to learn and grow.
Time to do the sofa thing and catch up on movies, books, half finished knitting and to just relax.

Here at our house the nearly grown kittens are at the stage where it would be pure torment to have a sparkly christmas tree, so instead we are being a bit grown up.
I took my inspiration from this picture of the sun setting over our garden on a foggy winter day, Solstice day. From now on (although it won't seem like it for a few months) the days will get longer. It's no secret that the last couple of months of winter still ahead of us, are my least favourite, but for now it is the season to celebrate, eat, drink and be merry to offset the short dark days.

winter decorations
So instead of a tree, the window sill sports a vase full of gold and silver twigs with felt decorations, which although a kitten temptation, can do no real harm should the temptation prove too much. At worst if the twigs get nibbled there might be some sparkly poo!

On the sideboard, a bit too high for the kitties to want to explore, we have a beautifully frosty wreath of winter gatherings; pine cones twigs, fruits and berries. With room for candles in the evening. I'm loving the simplicity!

I found some little tea lights with led bulbs that twinkle enchantingly and have them scattered around the fireplace.
I am totally sold on this fireproof form of candlelight and my favourites come nestled in a realistic looking wax candle. The batteries are replaceable, and curious noses won't get singed!

Happy New Year to all my friends, near and far.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Christmas market

Recently I was teaching for my lovely friend Petra in Bonn.
For once I treated myself to some extra time before travelling home. Petra took me to several Christmas markets in Bonn and Cologne, and I can understand now, why coaches full of shoppers make their way to Germany at this time of year. Yes, we have Christmas markets, a relatively recent addition, but they are NOTHING like!
I don't know if you get a bit Bah Humbug! in the run up to Christmas, for me it feels as though there is way too much pressure to spend money. Maybe it is my age but it all can feel horribly commercial and lacking in, well, lacking something. So, here's how I got my festive mojo back.

Wrap yourself up warm and sniff the air, first, a heady mix of warm spiced wine; Ghluwein is served throughout the day to keep the frost from the extremities. every booth seems to have it's own special recipe.
Nom Nom Nom
Next, the sweet tempting scent of nuts roasting in caramel goo with just a hint of cinnamon. Underlying this, the rich flavourful smell of roasting meats, sausages and speciality potato fritters served up with orchard fresh apple sauce.

Now look around, it's dusk and hundreds of lights sparkle, in the trees above you, around the wooden stalls, and everywhere is beautifully, colourfully decorated. In all we visited five markets during my visit.
The highlights for me were candy stalls full of sweets half remembered from childhood, the many artisan stalls selling genuinely hand made and lovely gifts; the brush makers booth with hand made brushes for every conceivable chore from brushing snow to cleaning out a pipe and many I had never seen before; ranging in size from almost doll house scale to, dare you to try and lift it, giant size.

Glass decorations, how to choose!
But the most breathtaking, eye dazzling, I want one of each please booth, was the one selling blown glass Christmas decorations. Some I recognised from my grandmother's time, inherited and treasured, others were just amazing, birds and animals, and all in the rich vibrant colours of bohemian glass at its most wonderful. Right there in a dark cobbled street my heart simply sang with the magic of Christmas.
In Cologne every district has a market and we nearly visited them all. Petra and I discovered a mutual love and indeed stamina for continuous shopping.
I could have easily spent serious money at the vintage and antiques booths. I learned a lot about the many traditional foods, raisin breads and stollen, biscuits and savouries and about the long held traditions that make these markets so special.
Cologne with bells on!

I love 4711 Eau de Cologne, have used it since forever and don't much care if it seems old fashioned, I just love the refreshing scent. So it was great to visit the home of 4711 in a side street. Right on cue the clock chimed, toy soldiers on horseback emerged and the bells chimed out a Christmas carol, enchanting.
I also discovered their new range of scents bringing the brand right up to date, to become the go to perfumery for anyone in need of a gorgeous Cologne.
The Acqua Colonia range has delicious scents, Pink pepper and Grapefruit, Blood Orange and Basil, Mandarin and Cardomom and Lemon and Ginger. We smelled divine for the rest of the day!

The Nativity Window. The Dom, Cologne.
After a pause to munch through a bag of roasted chestnuts, it was a lovely break from the crowds to step inside the soaring space of the Dom, the twin spired Cathedral. The space is peaceful, awe inspiring in scale and the sun came out just as we were there, illuminating the stain glass windows. right above us, glowing and bright, the Nativity picked out in coloured glass to remind us all.

So, there it is, how Christmas should be celebrated with dear friends, good food, beautifully made crafts, and a rich sense of tradition that is completely heartwarming.
As I wrap up the treats I brought home for everyone, ready to go under the tree, this year it really does feel good to be celebrating Christmas.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

O Pretty!

The new colours of O beads arrived! I'm in L.O.V.E with Magic Apple, all my fave colours in one tiny sequin of adorability. I have been a bit slow getting the designs out, thanks to a wander down the bramble infested byway that is the annual accounts, mind numbingly time consuming as stray bits of paper are tracked and nailed down.
Koi Bracelet
But happily, this weekend sees two new designs finished and off to their new home. My friend Lynn has the lovely life of owning StitchnCraft Beads, and so to celebrate the arrival of O beads, these two designs will be exclusively available through her shop for a while.

Koi Bracelet is a simple way to wear and see O beads. The bracelet is worked in layers with a rich texture of O beads and a neat edging. There are instructions for three variations to create very different textures. Order your O beads and the pattern here.

O Pretty Pendant, is my new favourite accessory and for this design the O beads are used as cute accents to a bezel for a cabochon. I've designed the pendant to be reversible, with the cabochon framed on one side and a pretty mandala of colourful beadwork on the other.
Once I had the design completed, I couldn't resist working in some vintage sparkle and happily discovered that the bezel will also fit a Swarovski Polaris crystal. Some antiqued chain adds to the retro finish, this is the one I'm wearing all the time! This design is going to be available in Lynn's new product section from Monday 16th December, link to the site here.
O Pretty Pendant
O Pretty Vintage style

Sunday, 1 December 2013

O beads!

O beads are perfect for bead embroidery
I just love it when a new bead begins. Happily my friend, bead artist Sabine Lippert, invited me to join in the fun right at the start of this little bead's life. Sabine has thought up a great little bead, subtle, easy to use, and a very pretty addition to the bead stash.
The first bag of samples got my creative ideas going right from the offset. O beads are, simply put, miniature do-nuts of glass, perfectly formed to nestle between beads.

Various designers around the world have put them through their paces, to check they work up well in lots of different stitches.  I'm loving them in Albion stitch, and Netting, they bring a whole new dimension to Right Angle Weave, and they are the perfect bead for bead embroidery lovers... It's been an age since I did some bead embroidery and now I can't resist!
O beads weave in nicely too

Meanwhile, whilst we've been busy testing both the beads and our ingenuity, somewhere in  Czechoslovakia ... the bead master behind the new bead has been busy cooking up recipes for a truly delicious palette of colours. It takes many months to go from the charcoal grey test beads we have to play with, to a rainbow of colours and finishes, months where we ache to try the new colours and are tormented by preview pictures that simply make our fingers itch!

Below are some of the first O beads, worked into tassels, earrings, and bracelets. I think they are destined to be one of my favourites!

O beads will be available from December 1st and I'll be creating these (and more) patterns as downloads and kits just as soon as the bags of those lovely colours arrive. I'll post the info just as soon as everything is ready.

Monday, 25 November 2013

A little bit of seaside

Dreamy Dagger beads
Bead love alert!
dreamy dagger beads!
When these arrived in the post, I decided that deadlines could
go hang, time to follow my bliss for a few evenings and bead me a necklace!

The hanks of beads were silky and tactile and I soooo wanted to have them with me as fringy pendants to swish my fingers through.

The colours reminded me of a piece of Abalone shell, picked up during a last long walk on a beach at the end of a holiday. I kept it to remind me of the pure luxury of sand between the toes, salt in my hair and the warmth of the sun.

The necklace grew simply, from the colours and with no particular plan in mind. More importantly, no stopping. No stopping to get caught up with re-works, rip outs, or planning, no stopping to think too hard about bead choices... Instead I kind of worked with the same frame of mind as that walk on the beach. Oh, and no stopping to tidy up the bead board, random messy, definitely a new approach and the random juxtaposition of beads gave me ideas and choices I might not usually have made.

Random act of beadiness!
The cord is a length of crochet, worked in fine cotton around a length of narrow jewellery tube, which gave a simple base to add a bail and beaded beads around.
The finished necklace

The pendant is simple bead embroidery, it's been an age since I did any, but it seemed the easiest way to bezel the irregular shell piece, and add the swishy fringing. Accent beads include semi precious stone beads, of South African Jade and pink Phosphosiderite.
I'm really happy with the outcome, it's not ground breaking, all the techniques are old favourites, but it's a fun piece to wear, and while I might not have time to go dig my toes into warm sand just now, instead I can run my fingers through those swishy fringes and take a moment to dream.

Lots of swishy fringes
Random embellishments

Monday, 11 November 2013

Colour and cream teas

I seem to spend a lot of my early mornings driving through the countryside to get to bead groups this autumn. Fileigh Beaders meet in the heart of Devonshire. We were meeting to spend a day playing with colour. It's one of my favourite classes to teach as we get to do colouring in all day! We also bead and dare to try new hues and it is always deeply rewarding to watch. It is also a class where I am sorely tempted to go buy beads as everyone brings yet more colours and combinations which I fall in love with instantly!
Autumn in Devon
Cream tea all for me
Devon has a unique landscape of rolling hills and rich farmland, Clotted cream country! At some points on my journey there is simply the ribbon of road laying across beautiful countryside, with not a house in sight. The Fileigh beaders are a lovely crowd and everyone seems to have been busy baking the night before, afternoon tea is awesome! and I am presented with a special plate of gluten free scones with, of course, clotted cream and the most delicious blackcurrant jam, and yes dear reader... I ate them all! yum!!
I took my camera for a little walk to show you the view, and as we were playing with colour, pictures of these Hydrangeas, planted around the village hall. So many great colour and shape ideas.
Almost the end of Autumn
Reaching for the beads...

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Relic pendant

Did Anne gaze out from here?
In September we had an outing to Hever Castle. Anne Boleyn lived there as a child, and so it was on the wish list of places to visit. The girls in my family are all caught up in the drama of Philippa Gregory's awesome series of books on the royal women who shaped our history so magnificently.
At Hever, although it was made over by William Waldorf Astor in the 1920's, it remains a 13th century castle at heart, complete with winding stone stairs and casement windows. Who could help but be utterly inspired!
A view of the orchard at Hever
My ongoing project has been the symbols and trinkets designs which I've blogged about before, here. It's still got me fascinated, and the inclusion of secret compartments within the designs is becoming a bit of a habit. The Tudors were great lovers of trinkets and beautiful jewels were sewn on to garments as well as being worn as jewellery.
Lovers would exchange bejewelled message pendants and these too would be sewn onto sleeves. Some romeo's were painted with a sleeve full, to give away when someone caught their fancy? or maybe to show off how popular they were!

Relic Pendant in Pewter
Meanwhile, back at home, on my desk were some Czech glass stud beads in the perfect shades of pewter and bronze, just itching to be used. The new bead shapes and designs are coming thick and fast out of Czechoslovakia,
as a new generation of bead makers explore the glass. It is lovely, exciting and inspiring to get the new beads to play with.
The result is the Relic Pendant. A little container for a message or treasure to be concealed within. Worked in Albion Stitch and clearly way more influenced by my visit to Hever than I realised whilst I was beading.
I've written up the pattern, which is also available as a download, and put together kits in the first two colourways inspired by the beautiful patina of time aged metals.

Relic Pendants in Bronze and Pewter

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Somerset wildlife

Somerset woodland
Inside the enchanted wood
Sometimes, life can exceed expectations in the best of ways. A few weeks ago I went to spend a day with the Quantock Beaders. They meet in a hall on the edge of beautiful woodland. I love to arrive early so I can talk a walk through the woods before class.
Quantock Beaders discover a new bug

This time we were making the glass beetle design, Quantock Beaders are special, they have a huge membership and I was more than a nadge worried when I got the call to prepare for about 40 students. We bead artists can be sensitive folk and usually anticipate 15 in a class, and the beetle has some intensively fiddly moments. My fretting was, as it transpired, entirely without foundation, because the Quantock gang create a brilliant atmosphere which makes teaching them a lovely experience, no really... and they teased me for panicking!

So there we were in the beautiful woods creating creepy crawlies, and all around us the trees were waiting to exhale the first shades of autumn, ripe blackberries and scatterings of beechnuts a sure sign that the seasons will change, ready or not.

Each one a little jewel
At the end of class, I suggested that once all the beetles were finished, the group should take them out and photograph them. The woods border the Hestercombe estate famous for it's gardens and I suggested it might be fun to show the gardeners the new genus of beetle hatching in the undergrowth.
I was so delighted when the girls sent me these pictures of their colourful beetles, everyone in class was able to finish their creation, and for me, it's a real treat to see so many colour variations together.
Can't wait for next years class!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

October butterflies

Autumn inspiration for the
October butterfly
After a gloriously sunny summer, we are being treated to a beautiful autumn of crisp bright days.
Perfect gardening weather, and somehow, it doesn't seem so bad to be reaching for the jumpers and socks, as long as it isn't raining...yet. It is the time of year for clearing up and cutting back, for bonfires and the crackle of drying leaves and seed pods, for long walks through the woodlands in search of hazelnuts and blackberries. Everything still in abundance a little later than usual this autumn.
On the beading mat this week has been the October Butterfly, I had lots of requests for the raggedy butterfly that accompanied the Scorpion. Like usual, it took me a while to re-trace my steps and find both the thread paths and the story for this little design.
Original butterfly left, October butterfly right
October butterfly celebrates the turn of the season, misty mornings when cobwebs are turned into filigree lace, sparkling with droplets of dew. When the first hint of frost bites the air. Days that shorten into dusk too soon into evenings scented with woodsmoke.
October butterfly
sparkling on a party dress

While beading my thoughts create a history. This butterfly seemed to get steadily more vintage looking, a perfect candidate for the 'found in a trunk in the attic' idea that seems to run through my imagination... a little treasure that holds clues to a magical story...

One upon a time...

October Butterfly is now available as a downloadable pattern, as a kit or as a printed pattern.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

sharing and learning

The new buzz word is all about sharing...
I'm busy working on Albion Stitch book three for a publisher I have always wanted to work with, it is so exciting that I have finally arrived at this point. I have had quite a journey to get here. With my peers discussing sharing, I thought I'd tell the story...
When I took the simple picot and pushed it around into new shapes and patterns it seemed logical to give each part of the stitch, and the rows in between a name. This created a simple shorthand language as a way of describing the ways to re-create the stitch patterns. I gave it a name, Albion Stitch. Next I wanted to share what I'd done with the beading world, so I published the books. Anyone who has ever sat down to write a beading pattern will know that to write a whole book takes many months, and to finance the publishing of one is scary!
But I was in love with the new language and all the possibilities so much that it was fun to take the risks. It was also huge fun to teach the stitch, and to watch students, even beginners, reach for different beads and within a couple of hours start asking, 'what if?' and experimenting... not something I'd experienced when teaching other stitches.

I make it very clear in the introduction of the first book that 'If you are familiar with beadwork techniques you will recognise the elements of Albion Stitch: Picots strung together through the tips with the option of a single Peyote Stitch row to create different effects'.

As the books gained in popularity I began to receive requests from designers to use the stitch in their work and to publish designs. At first I asked if they could wait just to give me time to make my investment back and give the books a chance to sell first. Most were lovely about it and held off. Then I asked for a little more time as I felt I still had some more techniques with the stitch I wanted to publish.

My work also created some stormy responses, and some of those I didn't handle very well at all... which is where, I think, a discussion about sharing starts... because at first I really didn't want to share my baby!
Once or twice I was told about classes, one was lifted out of my book and the conversation went, 'Why did you publish a book if you don't want people to use the designs?' and me patiently explaining that lifting something out of a book and using it to make money is just plain wrong and would they do it with other books too? There were also the, 'Oh I've been doing that for years and it's just fringing, it's my work and just because it looks like something in your book, it's not'... Which of course, is reasonable in one way, and an uncomfortable blurring of the rules for both parties in another. Then there was the 'Oh you can't copyright a technique', No you can't, but you can develop one beyond what has gone before, and name the innovation, and surely then you're allowed to be known as the person who did?

I know that picots are not new, I really do! I also know that of course somewhere, sometime, someone will have played around with the same processes, may even have taught a few. This has been pointed out to me, sometimes gently, sometimes not. At best when there is the caveat that what I'm doing is at least fresh and interesting. At worst when it is dismissive to the point of denying me my creativity.

So there came the time for a really long hard think, because the run in's were debilitating, hurtful, and turning me into the person I didn't want to be. I thought about my ego and yes I did a little foot stamping and told myself that people might well have done a bit, but they left it right where it was for me to pick up and run with it, and boy did I run, and boy did it make a few cross!
I thought about the fascinating discussions I'd had in classes across the world. Gently and soothingly  the continuous trickle of enthusiastic emails from beaders who had bought and worked through my books. Slowly I wondered how to take the next, inevitable and only logical step:
Just let go...

Which is how I began the new journey for Albion Stitch, a website where I could share the technique as I've developed it. To invite designers inspired by the work I've already laid out to show and share; a blog where I could share links to their pages and to show students works and have a gallery. Yes it would be OK to have links to buy my books and patterns; but there would also be free patterns and an open invitation, truly and honestly open, to pick up the ball and run with it so the fun could begin all over again. A calm filled me up at the thought of giving out being so much more fun than what felt like defending a sandcastle with the tide coming in!

So, albionstitch.com is up, growing slowly because I'm no great shakes at website building and there are weeks when I search for a way to code a page so it will show what I want it to... beyond frustrating, but steep learning curves are. I've got a free pattern or two ready, sent them out to beaders to have an explore, in the hopes that images will come back of their pieces for the gallery.

In the end, what would be glorious would be for Albion Stitch to quietly slip into the dialogue of stitches every beader has in their repertoire as a way of talking about picots, or laced together fringing.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Martha's Moth

Martha's moth is a design that began life as a question... 'Can you make me a moth?'
sketches for the Martha's Moth Brooch
Not one who finds 'No' the easiest word, however busy, I said yes.
So that question led to a heap more questions... how long do I have, who's it for, how big, what colours, how am I going to do this???
On a train journey back from a bead show, I doodled in the sketch pad. wobbly biro is my preferred way of thinking out loud on a page! I know, beautifully crafted sketch book pages would be lovely too,  but the notes are just so I don't forget what I thought.
I kind of knew about the structure from having made dragonflies, butterflies and beetles with wings in various beading techniques. I spent a summer evening watching the moths to check out body shapes and proportions. In our neighbourhood we have hawk moths and hummingbird moths and it's a bit of a tradition to go down with a glass of something nice and sit and watch them fluttering at dusk.
The finished design

Next was the lovely time of choosing out beads, and my ongoing love of clear cabochons came into play. After a few sessions at the beading board, Martha's moth came out pretty near to the original doodle and is now a brooch winging her way to her new owner.
I had fun trying our some new ideas, so next I have a re-make and tweeking session ahead, to see if I can get the instructions written and workable for my tester to have a play with.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Bead Designers Alliance

I've occasionally hinted in my blog about the frustrations of having my work copied and used in classes, it's not an easy topic to talk about. Mostly because it really, really hurts when you find out about it, and anything you say publicly has a way of coming out sour grapes, however carefully it phrased. So it has been interesting and something of a relief to read fellow designers blogs, in particular Sabine Lippert's honest appeal for fairness. This got the ball rolling, Marcia DeCoster also had thoughts to share... and now many other designers too.
What was refreshing for me, and eloquently put by others, is the degree of fairness and respect we would like to receive. I like the way everyone (designers and store owners together), thought through how to resolve the issues in positive ways.
The knee jerk reaction is 'You'll never stop it happening', easy to say, easy to look away and of course we won't... instead we are starting something great happening!
Now there is the Bead Designers Alliance, I like the approach, bead stores can sign up to support the designers, designers can sign up to be heard and their work seen. Designers are donating free patterns for participating store owners to use for classes; plus access to designers who travel to teach.
The most important people in this cycle of creativity and bead acquiring get to enjoy a wide range designs, buy more beads, find out about the creators and innovators and choose to support stores that endorse the simple fairness of respecting designer's work.
For me, I now have a new sense of belonging. It is good to be able to show a logo, share a web address with the backing of my peers instead of the dreadfully lonely moment of standing in front of class trying to explain the reasons why it is not acceptable to take my work and go teach it elsewhere.
There is a facebook page too, where you can keep up to date with how it's all working and growing... with a banner that changes daily to showcases designers work; today it was my turn to head up the page which made me hugely happy!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

windowsill flowers

Gardening and housework have definitely been on the back burner for a while, I'm promising myself
Spirit of Freedom rose
autumn days of digging and clearing; whilst steadfastly ignoring the dust bunnies indoors!
The only real housework was a frenzy of laundry to make the most of sunny days, I love the smell of sun dried laundry, I love how quickly it dries; such a treat after trying to get winter washing dry without the place looking like a permanent, umm, laundry!
But even this novelty has worn off now that we've had weeks of sunshine filled days (bliss!).

A few months ago I bought a divinely scented rose called Spirit of Freedom. Left to fend for itself in a large pot, I discovered it coming into flower in the corner of the courtyard. The scent is heady and perfect rose, and trails through the air around the plant like a treat waiting to be discovered. The flowers, unlike a lot of my roses, seem to last a long time too. You can see one in the little green vase in my latest window sill collection. Along with the roses I've been picking Rosemary, I like the fresh crisp scent and it seems to stop that circus of lazy flies that come into the house on long hot sunny days when the doors and windows are open. You know the ones, they go round and round and are impossible to shoo back out again!
Behind the vases is a teacup... Earlier this year I found a set of blue ones you can see one here in the last picture. Now I've rescued some green ones too, which I found in a charity shop. In the cup is a double flowered Kalanchoe. The florist said, 'Pinch out the flowers when they go over and it will keep flowering', that was six weeks ago and the flowers are still perfect, I think I might have found the ideal houseplant to survive 'beader's neglect'!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Beaded collection

a collection of beaded elements
I know, It's been a bit quiet on the 'look what I just made front'... work is occurring, but I'm not able to show and share most of it just yet.
I did take a couple of evenings out to make something for me to wear... So the story goes like this... a dear friend who is also a dress shop owner and is VERY good at selling clothes. She is kind and warmhearted and makes you feel beautiful, she is also a great sales girl and can convince you that you look fab in a hessian sack! and while you are in her shop, you do, you really really do!
The trick, I've learned, is to visualise yourself standing in front of the next beading class as a reality check.

A visit to her is always a treat and fortuitous in this instance as I'd just had a puritanical clear out of the wardrobe, having dropped a dress size (no excitement, I still several to go! sigh, pass the celery).
Thanks to her, I am now the proud owner of two smart casual dresses, a first for me and in need (of course), of some beady bling to go with.
Time is not something plentiful right now, I'm in that part of the year where deadlines roll up like waves crashing on the shore. But sometimes it is good to allow yourself a little bit of follow the bliss.

Love the charcoal and chalk colours
I tipped out my 'epic fail' box of beaded bits and pieces, and decided to simply stitch some of them together. It was fun to go through them and pick out likely combinations.
I settled for a little pile of bezelled rivoli from a bracelet that didn't work out, which set a colour theme going; a bezelled stone, that was kind of too small for a pendant and too big for a ring; the ring part of a toggle clasp, and a tiny odd beady 'thing'. I liked the charcoal and chalk theme with a hint of moss, so I added a peyote stitch bail, and lovely long fringes.
Not a masterpiece, but a couple of evenings of seeing where the idea would wander and Oooh! it was such fun to get a wee bit random, dare myself to do the asymmetrical thing and play. It was also lovely to not have to think about instruction writing or whether people will like it, to just sit and bead for fun for a couple of evenings. As to the necklace... I love it! it is really comfortable to wear, it had a first outing to the Brockehurst Bead fair last saturday. Plus, it goes with a lot of things too as it completely bypasses necklines, result!

Friday, 30 August 2013

Bead crochet

My first ever Crochet rope
with 4mm cube beads
One of my highlights for any trip to Germany is to hook up with bead artist and queen of crochet Brigitte Ilander
Her work is so utterly deliciously coloured it is tempting to buy her kits just to own those colour combinations. The detail in her patterned ropes worked in size 15 seed bead is breathtakingly intricate too.
A couple of years ago I was in despair of ever mastering bead crochet, despite some lovely lessons from a student, many tried and failed false starts. I so wanted to be able to stitch one of Brigitte's kits!
The Lime Zest rope
work in progress
My german friends challenged me to go learn before my next visit. Happily for me, bead artist and dear friend Gillian Lamb welcomed me into her class, Bead crochet for beginners, total numpties like me, welcome. Thanks to her 'can do' approach, and a devilishly clever way to get started... with nice big beads... I finally got the knack.
Next came a rope all by myself is size 8 seed beads. I love this technique for it's ease of transportation, and my rope grew steadily on long haul flights to and from the USA. It grew and grew into a lariat of slinkiness!
Beady tassels and cute ceramic beads
to decorate the ends of my rope
Whilst there, I shopped for accent beads and chose this cute ceramic bird and flower beads set from Melanie Brooks at Earthenwood Studios.
I'm a beader at heart, so I couldn't resist finessing my triumphant first piece with a couple of beaded tassels. It's fun to wear, as the crochet rope is strong, but flexible enough to tie into cute knots.
So, when I met with Brigitte in Hamburg last week, she was hugely encouraging and agreed that I am now ready to graduate to size 11 seed beads, to try a pattern and a smaller hook. Once my second size 8 rope is done, I will be stringing up my 'Simply Red' kit and hope to have it finished to show her on my next visit.
I love that my friends were so encouraging, I'd all but accepted that this technique was not ever going to be a happy one for me, so thank you Brigitte and Gillian for pushing me to try again!
Oh, and I've had lots of requests for the pattern for those tassels, so I'll write it up soon.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Bead shows are the best

So here I am, absolutely tired from three days of intensive beadiness, teaching, chatting, hugging and admiring all the stunning creations. Now I'm recovering from the Beaders Best show. I thought it would be nice to share how it feels to be part of a big event...
I shopped, for unusual beads, rare charlottes and vintage beads, delicious cabochons and, of course, the seed beads to match them.
I talked, pretty much non stop, with so many friends to catch up with and so many new people to get to know. It is also our opportunity to talk to the vendors, see new bead shapes, pick up the trends that are emerging and make notes for new designs.
For a little while there I was book signing, as my beloved Albion Stitch books have now been published as a beautiful volume in German, which was launched at the show... here is where you can buy the book. The English versions are here. This was a real personal landmark moment!
I loved every minute of my teaching days, my students were all brilliant so it was a genuine treat to spend time in their company. My two translators did a fantastic job of not only sharing my thoughts and ideas, but my slightly dodgy humour too, thanks you Barbara and Elina.
So, behind the scenes as a visiting tutor we start early, with classes starting at 8.30 we gather at the venue at 7.45. There is just time to secure a coffee and set up the classroom, then it is full on until the show closes. One lovely highlight at this show is the model walk. Each day at 12.30 beautiful models walk through the show wearing beadwork; competition entries and pieces by the artists present, either as tutors or with a booth selling their kits and patterns. It is an event and a pageant; it is also a validation that those awesome creations you see in photographs, really work as adornment.
After the show has closed for the day, a different kind of fun begins as everyone gathers for supper...
When I look back at the conversations over supper tables shared by artists from the UK, Russian, Germany, France, Italy, the USA, Sweden and more; it is with that luxurious feeling of having the opportunity to share the stories of our creativity. This little world brought together for a few evenings is not one in which jealous rivalry has a place. Each artist is on a personal journey of creativity, loving every minute of it, proud of their own work and delighted to honour each others achievements.
So these after show suppers are a blissful indulgence, a source of fuel too, discovering so many new points of view. We come away inspired to keep on taking creative risks, then sharing the successes. Talking of fuel, the evenings are also full of laughter, outrageously bad jokes, lots of photographs and plenty of alcohol! and yes we do talk about things other than beads... a bit.
But you know, there is another element required to make a great show, at the best shows it is hidden and should go unnoticed by the visitors, and that is great organisation. Attention to the tiny details,  from the simple, like having signs right at the point where you look up wondering where something is, to hiring chairs that you really will be comfortable in all day as a student. A million little things, and staff on hand to smooth the procession of people and questions. The team at Perlen Poesie are, I hope, and deservedly so, pleased that all their  hard work resulted in a truly enjoyable event.

Friday, 9 August 2013

pay it forward

Little Owl bookmark
I've had the delightful honour to be included in a really simple but clever project.
Napolde at Fairy Pearls has invited an international roll call of beadwork designers to simply contribute images of their work.
These she converts into beautifully hand finished bookmarks complete with silky ribbon and colour matched beads... and the proceeds of the sales go to help a children's charity.
I love this kind of energy and the bookmarks are totally collectable!
It was great fun choosing pics for 'my' bookmarks, and even more fun browsing all the other gorgeous images. So much talent, colour and beauty gathered together and all for a for a worthy cause.
I'll definitely be buying some when I visit her stand at Beader's Best in Hamburg later this month.
You can find all the bookmarks for purchase here and settle in with a mug of tea as there are many to choose from. Or if you like my selection, just click on the link below each image to go to the page, Happy shopping!

Jezebel's Jewel bookmark
Beetle on embroidered leaf

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Scent and Scentibility

Fresh Lavender, Mint and Lemon Verbena
Sometimes a break is good... sometimes not. The recent quiet has been due to an overload of deadlines and work, which I am just crawling out from under. It's hard to follow your bliss and do the things you like best first in those circumstances... you know the times, when you feel like you're only just hanging on to the back of a runaway train by your fingernails. I've resolved (again) to get more organised!
So, before the day becomes hectic and this blissfully sunny weather too oppressively hot, it's nice to take an early morning walk down the garden, preferably bare foot.
These quiet interludes are cost free but utterly precious. A little treat I enjoy disproportionately, is to pick a handful of scented leaves, lavender, mint, rosemary or lemon verbena, snip them all together into a cup and place it on the windowsill (or on the work desk if I really have to go there). First is the delicious burst of mixed scents as you snip away, and that lovely homespun feeling… then more gentle reminders throughout the day. Treat yourself and feel the difference. If you really want to get into it, it is said that different scents can make us more productive, I can bathe in rosemary oil but the accounts paperwork doesn't get any better, Lavender is definitely calming but for me the ultimate elixir has to be fresh roses… or burying your entire face in a multi petalled peony… divine… check for
Crystals in Griege, Denim Blue, Khaki and Vintage Rose
bees first though.

The relentless nature of midsummer work has meant that even my treats become tied in to the beadwork. I had to order crystals for the upcoming Jezebel's Jewels workshops and found, when they arrived, that they perfectly matched my potpourri.Jezebel's Jewels will be at Beader's Best in Hamburg in August and StitchnCraft in Dorset in November and is proving so popular that I'll be teaching it fairly regularly through next year too.

Jezebel's Jewels pendant