Last month I won one of Jen Cameron ‘s Firefly beads as part of the Art Jewelry Elements quarterly theme challenge. Today is the day to reveal my design, and in typical fashion, I have waited until the very last minute to make something (in my defence, it’s been a busy month, and my weekend was filled with dance and gymnastics competitions—not me, my daughters!—and now it’s school holidays).
Anyway, Jen’s beads look like this (I borrowed Jen’s photo, thank you!).
Fireflies, are found in parts of the USA, as well as other places around the world, and tend to appear on warm summer nights. I once saw fireflies in Nebraska when I was visiting a friend and her family (we drove her car back to California where we were both at grad school). Alas, here in this part of Australia we don’t have fireflies, although we do have glowworms, which I have seen in the Victorian bush. One of my daughters said the bead looked like the Van Gogh painting Starry Starry Night, which it definitely does.
It’s a big bead too, a couple of inches long, and quite fat, so it was destined to go into a necklace. I knew it would need to be balanced by the rest of the design, so I thought I would do a multi-strand necklace and braid the strands together to give each side some visual weight. I chose a combination of some deep blue seed beads surrounding a variety of golden yellow Czech glass flowers, pale translucent yellow beads interspersed with blue rondelles, and after some thought, a strand of mixed seed beads in greens, blues and purples with some pops of yellow.
Last but not least, I added a tassel underneath the bead. I wanted a yellow tassel but could only get blue and green, so I went with green. I tried to age the shiny golden cap but alas it is plastic, so I need to think of the best way to do that—clearly gilder’s paste is unlikely to work. Although, now that the necklace is assembled, it doesn’t look too out of place with the golden yellow beads.
(Apologies for the picture—which is not the best as it was taken at night under lights. I may replace it tomorrow if I can get a better one.)
Anyway, thank you Jen for the fabulous bead, and thank you AJE for the challenge! I’ve listed the other participants below, make sure you go and check out their creations.
My Mum arrived at my house last week with an enormous box of olives from my aunt and uncle’s garden. I’d nearly forgotten that they were going to give me some, so it took me a bit by surprise, and more so when I saw just how many there were. Unfortunately I didn’t take a picture of the box, but there were quite a few kilograms of them, ranging from green to deep dark purply-black.
Now, the last time I tried curing olives it involved soaking them in water and changing it every other day or so for weeks and weeks. Needless to say it wasn’t the success I’d hoped for, too many of the olives went bad and the texture of the rest wasn’t great. I think they were way too ripe (they came from a neighbour’s tree—I’d rescued them from being thrown out). So this time, I immediately hopped online to figure out the best way to cure them. Most recipes advocated soaking them in brine—essentially very salty water—for weeks. I also found some recipes for dry-curing or as it is sometimes called, “oil-curing”, which doesn’t actually involve oil, instead you pack the olives in salt. Armed with a lovely blogpost describing both methods, I gathered my ingredients and equipment, girded my loins and waded in.
Sadly, a lot of the olives were a little the worse for wear, bruised and dented. So I sorted through to pick out the least damaged ones and divided them into a batch of green to purple olives and a batch of purply-black olives. Don’t worry, there were still plenty of olives in each batch. According to all of the information I read online, the green ones have more of the bitter glucosides than the black ones, and hence need more soaking, so I decided to do the green-purple batch in brine and the purple-black ones in salt.
There really isn’t much to either method, so I’m not going to write a recipe, just list the steps.
Wash the olives and then use a sharp knife to slit them so that the bitter compounds can escape more easily.
For the brined olives, pack them into a large jar, then cover with brine (warm up water in a saucepan, then dissolve enough salt into it so that an egg—raw and still in its shell—floats, then let it cool.). Use a ziplock bag containing water to press the olives down into the solution if you need to.
For the dry-cured olives, layer olives and salt in a jar so that all of the olives are completely covered in the salt.
Put both batches in the cupboard and give them a good shake every week or so.
Start tasting the brined batch after a few weeks, keep tasting regularly until they start to taste like salty olives, not bitter ones.
Start tasting the salt-packed olives after about three weeks, again, taste regularly until you like the taste.
Rinse off the brine/salt, and repackage in more brine, or vinegar or olive oil. I’ll let you know what I do here when I get to that point.
In case you’re wondering, I used pure salt (no added iodine) from the supermarket. Nothing fancy, because I used around 3.5 kg of it, close to 3 kg in the salt-packed batch and another 0.5kg in the brine. I have two 2L jars of the salt-packed olives and a 3L jar that is about two-thirds full for the brined batch.
I’ll keep you updated as the curing progresses. Wish me luck!!
My absolute favourite show, hands down, at the moment is Outlander. You could say I’m a little obsessed with it. For those who haven’t had the chance to see it yet, it’s a romantic, action, adventure series set largely in 18th Century Scotland, right before the Scots rise under the banner of Bonnie Prince Charlie in their final futile attempt to seize control of the British throne. It’s based on a series of novels by Diana Gabaldon, which are being made into a series by Ron D Moore (whose credits include Star Trek Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, as well as Battlestar Galactica). The summary from Starz says:
Outlander follows the story of Claire Randall, a married combat nurse from 1945 who is mysteriously swept back in time to 1743, where she is immediately thrown into an unknown world where her life is threatened. When she is forced to marry Jamie Fraser, a chivalrous and romantic young Scottish warrior, a passionate relationship is ignited that tears Claire’s heart between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.
The story is not just a romance, although the developing relationship between Claire and Jamie plays a big part. There are political machinations, accusations of witchcraft, and the looming threat of Black Jack Randall, an English soldier who is the ancestor of Claire’s 20th century husband Frank. The end of season one is truly not for the faint-hearted, and I’m going to be waiting with baited breath for season two to air.
There is a lot to inspire in Outlander. The sweeping vistas of the Scottish Highlands for one. The divine costumes for another. And of course the story itself. I created three pieces inspired by the show, each drawing from different aspects.
My first piece is inspired by the Scottish landscape. One of the key locations in both the book and the TV show is Jamie Fraser’s home Lallybroch. In real life, the derelict Midhope Castle near Edinburgh was used for Lallybroch exteriors.
UK bead artist Natalie McKenna has a series of ceramic pendants inspired by Scottish landscapes. When I saw this one, I immediately thought of Lallybroch. In this piece I’ve tried to invoke the gorgeous vistas of the Scottish Highlands, the blues and greys of the sky, the browns and greens of the landscape. I’ve kept it simple, choosing beads that complement the focal, rather than compete with it, including some more beads by Natalie.
My second piece was inspired by the incredible wedding dress created by Outlander costume designer Terry Dresbach. Silvery linen is pleated and tucked into a full, lush shape, and flakes of mica give the underskirts a wonderful shimmer as they catch the light. The final flourish is a scattering of acorns and oak leaves embroidered with metal thread across the skirt and bodice:
If you’re interested, Terry Dresbach has posted close-ups of the dress details on her blog here.
I’ve used the embroidered oak leaves and acorns as inspiration for this necklace. The silver-plated stampings I’ve used look a lot like the embroidered leaves. Through the chain of the necklace, I have woven some grey-green sari silk.
My final Outlander piece was inspired by a line uttered by Jamie Fraser to his wife Claire. “You are my home now,” he tells her in a moment guaranteed to send hearts aflutter! When I came across a word bead by Swoondimples that says almost exactly that, I had to have it. A house to dangle from it from BoHulley Beads. Red hearts for Jamie and Claire’s love, and some blue flowers to represent the Forget-me-knots that Claire picked right before she fell through the stones and into the past. The clasp is a dragonfly, a nod to book two in the Outlander series, Dragonfly in Amber (currently in production for season two).
So that’s Outlander. But wait, there’s more. A few weeks ago, when I did Heather Powers’ Game of Thrones challenge, I promised that I had another piece in the works, just waiting for some beads to arrive. This is a necklace inspired by another wedding dress, in this case Margaery Tyrell’s dress for the wedding to Joffrey Lannister. The Tyrell symbol is the rose, and her dress had an intricate train decorated with fabric roses, and beautiful embroidery of thorny vines and flowers across the bodice.
Leah Curtis from Beady-Eyed Bunny makes polymer clay roses in just the right shape. I wanted to evoke the cascade of roses on the train, and I included some red roses too, just for fun. Silvery thorns peek out between the blooms and red droplets remind one of the hidden dangers of the rose. Quite fitting perhaps as Margaery’s new husband died at the wedding, although not necessarily by her hand.
So that’s it from me, thank you for reading this far and if you haven’t seen (or read) Outlander, give it a go! I’m looking forward to seeing what other designers have been inspired by their favourite shows to make. Here’s a list of the participants, thank you all for playing along!