Friday, 28 December 2012

Rhodendrons - OUT OF CONTROL!

My rhodedendron-flower necklace design got a little bit out of hand. I guess that's quite appropriate for rhodedendrons, which come into flower so suddenly and profusely that they almost seem vulgar in the sheer amount of pink and red blossom they suddenly produce from amongst their shiny-green leaves and then drop just as suddenly, covering the grass in a glorious carpet of discarded blooms.

This is how it all happened. You may prefer to skip the text and scroll through the pictures to see how the design got progressively OUT OF CONTROL, just like the rhodedendrons do in late spring-early summer.

I had been saving some large silver-coloured rings for ages and ages, having thought that they would be handy for making a multi-strand design. But what to put on each strand? I wasn't used to dealing with more than one strand at once. So I decided that the different strands would have different sorts of beads. I used my nectarine-coloured peanut beads for the first time and realised how cool they are. But I ran out of them too soon, which is where the grey flower-type beads came in.

Peanut beads are cool, especially in this nectarine colour
I chose some co-ordinating glass pearls for the bottom section, but then ran out of those too, so the last strand had to be rose-quartz nuggets with silver-cored seed beads. Then I added a few green beads in different shades, because that felt right for a rhodedendron necklace. You have to have leaves as well, you see. These things are important.

The red and pink rhodedendron-blooms wanted to join in as dangles, because it seemed such a waste of those big silvery rings not to have extra dangles hanging from them, and anyway they went with that nice pink ceramic pendant which wasn't originally going to be in the necklace but wanted to join in the fun. So, pink and red, yay.

Possibly, in retrospect, it was at that stage that things started to get a bit excessive.

Pink and red, yay.

But then, to top it all, I decided I wanted to add some extra green sections. Why? Just because it seemed to make sense together with the other green beads I had already put in.

Extra green sections. Just because.

By now the necklace had really and truly got out of control. At this point I just gave up so here it is in all its glory. It is long. And clanky. And, um, interesting. But it does look surprisingly good with drapey, loose-fitting clothes.

And, on the positive side, I now feel I have got red-pink-green out of my system (for the time being, anyway) and feel able to be a little bit more restrained for the next things I make.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to everyone reading this :-)

Familyandfriends necklace
I bought this gorgeous ceramic pendant from MelonsBitz recently, and thought it would go perfectly with these lucite flowers that I'd found to remind me of the lovely weekend we spent earlier in the year with my youngest sister and her husband. The rhodendrons were in bloom, pink and red.

The necklace got more and more complicated in design, though - more of which later!!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Follow That Star

Today is the shortest day - or the longest night.

For me, this season is a time for reflection. About family, friends, old traditions and new beginnings. About love, faith and hope for ourselves and for the world. Each of us must follow our own star, even through the darkest night.

I was inspired by some slightly iridescent, deep indigo-coloured glass beads, which seem to me to have the luminous glow of twilight sky. The dark-grey seed beads are for the night sky, and the eighteen star-shaped bead caps, like the clasp, are "antique gold" metal (not real gold, alas). The colours have not really come out at all in this picture, taken in artificial light, but you can see the design pretty well, and the nice drape given by the flexible beading wire.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Femininity, pink, and power

 "Do the things you used to talk about doing but never did.
Know when to let go and when to hold on tight.
Stop rushing.
Don't be intimidated to say it like it is.
Stop apologizing all the time.
Learn to say no, so your yes has some oomph.
Spend time with the friends who lift you up, and cut loose the ones who bring you down.
Stop giving your power away.
Be more concerned with being interested than being interesting.
Be old enough to appreciate your freedom, and young enough to enjoy it.
Finally know who you are."

 - Kristin Armstrong.

Pink can be a problematic colour in some contexts, because it's so stereotypically feminine, and is associated with all sorts of expectations of stereotypical feminine behaviours - some of which this quote warns us to avoid. Many little girls my son's age appear at parties dressed entirely in pink, head-to-toe. And I know several women who avoid wearing pink because of the accompanying messages of little-girlhood. But, on the other hand, I also know some extremely tough and canny women whom I strongly suspect of deliberately wearing pink when they want to "fly under the radar" for their own strategic purposes.

So, anyway, this bracelet is a birthday present I made for my middle sister, who has always loved pink. It is based around some lovely handmade glass beads, which I've been hoarding for so long that I can't remember where I originally got them. I am particularly pleased with the way the small green accent beads have worked here.

The metal beads and components are all plated silver, so the bracelet feels pleasantly heavy and substantial on the wrist. The silver reflects the shine of the handmade beads, the glass pearls and the pear-shaped crystal. The clasp does look rather excessively huge on that shot above, though, because of the foreshortening. So, in the interests of accuracy, here's another picture of the design.

It is nice to make jewellery as presents. It always seems to turn out very different for different people.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Garden necklace

 I've been working on this necklace a while, but have only just recently put it all together with the help of a lovely clasp from Tanzee Designs that seemed just perfect for the design. What I like about it is that the beads in it remind me of my friends and family, or places that I've enjoyed visiting.

The dragonfly charm is from Kerrie Berrie Beads in Brighton. The little iridescent flower and the butterfly beads are from The Bead Master, Sydney. The green seed beads are (I think) from BeadWorks. The wooden beads are from The Bead Shop in Brighton. The turquoise beads are from Hobbycraft in Solihull. The ceramic disks are from a vintage necklace which I got at our local antiques fair. The cobalt blue foil beads and the red cloisonne beads are from PJ Beads. The metal filigree beads, and the large bead with the white background, are from the haul donated by my running friend.

I made the necklace in sections, with short stretches of beading wire attached at each end to the metal components (clasp parts or the filigree beads). Before, I'd worried about attaching beading wire to simple (non-wrapped) wire loops because the very thin beading wire might escape from the gap in the wire loops. However, I think with the weight of this necklace it will be ok. The crimps are the part of it most likely to fail. We'll see - the necklace is going out on a test-wear today!

Friday, 7 December 2012

Exciting new toy: hammer and block.

Yes, I know I'm several decades behind the rest of the world, but look, this is really exciting for me, so humour me here... I have got myself a hammer and block.

I have always loved the look of hammered spirals of silver wire. They look all uneven and handmade and interesting. When making jewellery, you're fighting a constant battle to differentiate your work from all that cheap, mass-produced stuff (some of the mass-produced stuff isn't even that cheap, but it's still not very well-made when you look carefully at it). Otherwise, really, you might as well shop on the high street and have done with it.

Investing in a hammer and block was a bit of a risk, though, because I obviously can't afford actual silver wire, so I have had to use silver-plated copper instead. And I was really worried that the copper would show through the silver-plating after hammering, thus rendering the hammer and block a total waste of money.

So tonight, slightly more noisily than I'd have liked, I made a "sampler" section of chain (just three beads on three pieces of wire, plus a practice connector at one end that you can't really see in this photo).

These beads were upcycled from a vintage necklace (where "vintage" = "found in local charity shop"; we're all about reducing our Bead Miles, round here).

Night photography + macro = camera shake. But you get the general idea.

If I hammer with the flatter part of the hammer, at least, you can't really see the copper wire showing through the silver.

I wonder if the copper might show through if I try adding texture - that might be actually quite a cool effect. I'll have to experiment with that one.

I'm quite excited about this: I've learnt a lot about design (especially colour) since I last did any real wire-work, so it'll be nice to compare with my older blog posts to see how my approach has changed since then. Watch this space!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Time out - followed by "time in" again

We've been having a few problems round here lately. I've had a lot of stress at work and I have had to take some "time out" from beading because there didn't seem to be enough hours in the day (you know the feeling?). But yesterday I was able to re-start making things again, just for a few hours, and it was GREAT. I felt so calm and happy to be able to think about crafting problems rather than those seemingly-insoluble problems I've been battling with at work.

The problem I've been enjoying thinking about is: what to make my youngest sister for Christmas? She has just got a swanky new job and asked for some bracelets that could look sophisticated enough to wear for work - not too chunky or dangly.

I'm not sure I've found the solution yet, to be honest, but I wondered about using seed beads. I haven't done any seed-beading for ages so I started with a simple spiral rope. I was aiming for a wave-ripple effect with a palette of blues (in four different tones and surface effects), and this worked quite well, but the bracelet ended up being a bit casual in the overall effect. So now it's time to go back to the drawing-board for her present! But hey, it's a start, after a long break. In my experience getting started is the important thing, so much so that it almost doesn't matter what you do.

Seedy beady wonderfulness
To explain the interesting mossy background in the picture: today my son and I went to a birthday party. It was one of those parties where the whole class (and a good number from the class above, too) got invited to a big party in the village hall where they had balloons, music and organized games, and it was CRAZY loud. My son didn't react very well to all the noise and commotion, and he needed quite a lot of input from me. We ended up having to have a "time-out" outside for five minutes - I didn't frame it as a punishment or anything, it was just so that he could calm down and have a bit of quiet. When we were outside I realised how tense I'd been and how he must have been reacting to that too.

While we were waiting, I took a quick picture of the seed-bead bracelet on the mossy wall. It was then that we both realised that it wasn't in fact the end of the world if he couldn't manage to take part in every single noisy game. I think he also realised that he hadn't let me down or anything, and that I understood how hard he'd found it. After that, he asked to go back to the party and, curiously, he behaved much better.

So: time-out can be a good thing. For grown-ups as well as small children.