Friday, 21 June 2013

She sure showed up

So, are you itching to know how I got on at Bead and Button 2013?... just under 4000 miles, a few sleepless nights, some scary
bead haul from WhimBeads
moments when my class packs got held up in the customs warehouse; then suddenly I was sitting in a bar in Milwaukee with my friends from Germany, Petra Tismer, Martine Nagele, Claudia Schumann, Sabine Lippert and the lovely Elke Leonhardt Rath, gossip in full swing and then dear friend Laura Andrews arrives, followed by Marcia DeCoster... and so the evening rolls on, hugs, laughter, friends who are family. Before you sigh and think, OMG this is going to be a roll call of the beading world, does she stop name dropping! Be kind, this is also a roll call of kindred spirits, a gathering from many countries where it is simply joyous to meet and hug and renew our friendships. And yes we talk beads non-stop. As the new kid on the block I'm overwhelmed by the kindness of friends, and quite a few strangers, who give me tips and guidance, make sure I'm up on time, show me the ropes and... the best bit for anyone who's working life is spent in quiet contemplation of the bead tray... endless, generous and heartwarming complements about my work.
Best of all are the students, it is not a small investment to join a class, and their enthusiasm to learn makes delivering classes a really joyful experience. So to everyone who came to my classes a big thank you hug!
As the week draws on, the late suppers, early starts (class starts at 8.30am some mornings), and the long distance walking around the venue and the classrooms... begin to give us all a slightly weary, glazed expression. But there is so much to see, and do, experience and enjoy that there is nothing for it but to commit! Boy did I!
 enamel with Mary Hettmansberger
Mary's lush green pendant
Pendants with Gwen Youngblood
Spinner ring with Robyn Cornelius

I spent a day with Gwen Youngblood learning Metal Smithing 1-2-3, by the end of which she had us all cutting, soldering, bezel setting and riveting. Next was an evening with Robyn Cornelius, who's work I have long admired, I got to wield an even bigger torch, to this time make a silver ring with spinning collar. Then came a day spent with  Mary Hettmansberger, learning to do enamelling with attitude, more flames, more mastery of metal with tab setting and cold joining, bliss! As a treat I bought myself one of Mary's pendants and it sits on my workroom shelf as a reminder to get down the shed and get the blow torch lit a bit more often! Unfinished projects include a micro macrame pendant with Joan Babcock and a pave bangle with Sue Jackson and Wendy Hubrick.
Meet the Teachers is a legendary evening, where in the great hall all the teachers display their work and wares. Luckily for me my dear friends Mary Yaeger and Patti McCourt were willing helpers.
In the quiet before the storm which is the doors opening to let everyone in, I had the best fun making friends with people who's work is utterly inspiring, renewing friendships with designers I've written about in my former life as a magazine journalist and editor, and hugging fellow artists I only ever get to see at shows as we are all on busy schedules.
Chains and spikes
Lovely stones for my stash

On the last sunday I had a restful day shopping, it's a big show with much to take in and sooooo much to tempt the purse out of the pocket, but with thoughts of the weigh in for my suitcase on the journey, home I made a modest (for me) selection of beady goodies I couldn't bear to leave behind.

Will I go back? suitcase already packed!

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Blissfully blue

I like integrity, it balances the soul beautifully and is an enjoyable quality to pursue. There are times though, when the lack of it in others makes me want to rant so bad I could smash plates! Life lesson learned, is to stay silent and await the gentle work of karma to rebalance injustices. Enough said.

blue pendant
The blue stones I bought from the lovely market stall holder, and the promise to follow my bliss, combined with sadness caused by the episode alluded to above, had me take a time out to contemplate and bead.
The little blue discs of sodalite and a big donut bead of cut and polished Dumortierite were waiting to be used, rather than consigned to the 'one day' box.
Blue has been a tricky one for me, it's only recently that it has crept into my wardrobe and it's proving a fun colour to explore it with my beading.
Dumortierite is a deep denim blue, with the mystical properties of enabling the wearer to see life as it really is, to release negativity and stand firm in resolve. Sodalite brings calm, trust, rational thought and is a soother of stress irritated tummies. So if you see me wearing this piece of armour you'll know exactly what frame of mind I'll be in... or in need of!
The design process was helped along by the round shapes of the cut stones. I wanted simplicity and balance. A lucky delve into the bead box came up with the blue glass spike beads and a way to continue the trickle of thought about designs on the theme of 'sticks and stones'. They also act as a little post -it note to self, to avoid the pitfalls of negativity and negative people in general!

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Student inspired

Grace's loom woven loveliness
I don't often get the bead loom out these days, but have been tempted into doing so after a chance meeting with a student. Grace is a hugely talented spinner, patchworker,stitcher, beader and all round creative, who took a loom class with me a few years ago. It's always lovely to meet up with her, she is full of energy and always dressed in something exquisite about which she usually says, 'oh, just some odds and ends I threw into a dye bath or two', envy envy!!
I was touched and delighted when she showed me these bracelets. She's taken the original idea we worked on in class a step beyond. You can see the post here and try the techniques for yourself.
Having woven fine yarns and beadwork together on the loom, she has then gone back in to the piece, to work off the surface with more beadwork. The result is a lovely raised surface and as always, her colours are divine. Simple snap fasteners stitched to a woven selvedge are all that is needed to make the pieces instant wearables.
Meeting up with Grace has re-energised and inspired me to get the loom out and dusted down for some new ideas I've been mulling over.
Expect a mixed media loom class on next terms schedule!

Talitha comes of age

Talitha is a design with a sweet history. I made the silver and black version a few years ago, and wore it a lot. In class my students asked to learn the pattern. Trouble was, while they loved the idea, no one wanted to sit and french knit the cord which is an integral part of the design texture. It took me many many months of searching to find a cord I liked enough to offer in class, and one which I could get in a good range of colours. The cord I finally unearthed is a gorgeous waxed cotton, finely braided cord.
The next and gratifying part of the story is that I offered the class and it sold out, and filled up, and is set to become one of those lovely classes that people seek out time and again.

As designers, we create for all kinds of reasons.
original Talitha
When I stop to think about how my designs happen., the process is hard to pin down, but constants are; that the work I do is progressing me creatively and helping my students explore new beading ideas, that it's telling an interesting story. But first and always, because it is something I really want to wear or own myself. We have no idea which of the designs will grow ever more popular and which will be set aside quietly, that's just the creative lottery of putting it out there.
So, cord acquired, I had to sit down and fathom how I made the original piece, make sure that it was repeatable in easy to follow steps, and test it in different colours to make sure it held true as a design.

colour variations, class samples... current favourite
Astral pink and pewter, far right
As part of the symbols and trinkets series, Talitha is an 'Eye for Scrying', inspired by dowsing pendulums, stones with wishing holes through the centre and traditional circular motifs used for meditation and divination.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Glorious tulip

Tulip mania gorgeousness
Have you read about the history of tulip mania that gripped speculators and gardeners alike in the 17th
century? It's a salutary lesson of greed gone haywire, where slips of paper with flower names on were traded for astronomical fortunes; but at it's heart, the magic of propagation.
A friend arrived for a gossip the other day, carrying this divinely flamboyant tulip in a pot.
Our forebears would gnash their teeth with envy at the easy with which we can acquire such beautiful tulips. They are one of the few flowers that improve with age too, I like them best when they are gone a bit past prime and are curving and spreading so elegantly.
Once it finished flowering, I  planted the bulbs of this one out in the courtyard and hope it will come again in the spring next year.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Treasure creating

Labradorite and Serpentine necklace
I think I'm like a lot of bead lovers, in that, there is a magpie hoard of lovely things to one day use with
my beadwork in the cupboard. Part of the fun is reviewing the pieces, then squirrelling them away again as treat in store. But finding a serious lack of space in my usual treasure chest, for those lovely pieces found in the market, for example; a new approach was needed.
In the spirit of 'Living my bliss' and doing the nice stuff first, out came a Labradorite cabochon to go with the newly acquired silver capped Serpentine wand.
As the bead stash is as plentiful as the 'lovely treasures hoard', there followed a happy hour of choosing a likely pile of seed beads (galvanised pewter, pale green, olive lustre), accent beads (Czech milk glass and adorably lopsided daggers), Swaovski chatons in sand opal, and even a length of silversilk in just the right shade of olive green.
There followed many hours of pure happiness... Bliss followed!
As I bezelled the cabochon and added (then unpicked) different beaded elements, the shoulders relaxing, my mind quietly unravelling irksome life niggles... I had the best time!
The creative thought processes have had a great jump start too, and already I'm imagining a whole series of 'Sticks and Stones' pieces with articulated joins and links.
But for now, I'm going to just love wearing the necklace. Serpentine has the healing qualities of protecting the wearer against sorcery and invisible forces (!), while Labradorite is the perfect stone to help ease aching joints, while balancing and harmonising the wearer.
I'd forgotten what a pleasure it is to just take time out and make something, like going for a walk in the sunshine with no particular destination in mind. While deadlines still have to be met, meetings attended, classes prepared for and journeys organised... I've already had another rummage for the beads and bits for my next bliss session.