Earlier this month I took a class with Christi Friesen, something guaranteed to throw me right out of my comfort zone. I have never considered myself good at “art” — you know, drawing, painting and sculpture. Nope, I know I have a good eye for jewellery composition and colour but I can’t draw to save my life. And also, I’m not hugely experienced with polymer clay.
Anyway, I decided to challenge myself and take one of the classes held at The Whimsical Bead at the beginning of the month, and I chose to do the Mystery Specimens class. It was great fun and I surprised myself by (to my oh so critical eye) managing to make a couple of pieces I was quite proud of.
As it so happened, the monthly theme for the Art Elements challenge was Octopus — announced just as I was heading off to the class. I decided that if the opportunity arose I would try to make something octopus-y for the challenge. And as you will see, I did.
But first, the class. Christi’s classes are FUN and this class was no exception. Christi taught us to make odd little creatures, destined for life in a bottle — mystery specimens! My first specimen is quite endearing I think, he’s almost hiding behind his hand. The clay is a mix of glow-in-the-dark and granite (although I haven’t really tested whether it really glows in the dark), and I kept the surface decoration simple, a stripe down the back and some shading. The thing that really makes these critters come alive is the use of little glass eyes, it really gives them personality!
Next I made a mer-creature, with a tail fin and a ridge down his back. Christi showed us how to give them an angry expression — this guy is not happy to be trapped in a jar!
Finally, I had enough leftover clay to make an octo-critter. She’s not just any octo-critter though, she has two faces, and has overdone the red lippy a bit!
I really enjoyed taking Christi’s class, it was a great stretch for me, and next time she’s in Australia I might have to take my Mum and my sister along to play as well, I think they’d love it! And thanks to Dani and The Whimsical Bead for hosting the class.
Don’t forget to pop along and visit some of the other bloggers taking part in this Art Elements Challenge. Here’s the list, to make it easy!
It’s been a few months since I managed to make something for the Art Bead Scene monthly challenge. But I did make something this month! Well, a small confession — I actually made this last month, but using the inspiration artwork for June (which I had downloaded earlier in the year thanks to ABS making us a little booklet containing the year’s artwork, month by month).
The artwork is by Odelin Redon, a French artist active in the late 1800s to early 1900s, and it really has the most vibrant and luminous colours, quite at odds with the renaissance feel to the female head featured in the painting. I was really taken by the combination of pinks and blues and greens.
I pulled out one of the folk-inspired birds that Heather “Humblebeads” Powers has been making in recent months, a beautiful deep pink one with blue accents. I made a tassel out of embroidery silks that coordinated with it beautifully, but I needed a large bead to balance it. Serendipitously I received a package of funky knitted beads from KnittenJen’s Beads, and one of them paired beautifully with Heather’s bird. I kept the rest of the necklace simple, just stringing it onto a piece of suede thonging. I have had thoughts about adding some more beads (I do have some similar knitted beads without the seed bead embellishment), although to be honest I would need some larger beads than are common in my stash to give the necklace balance. Maybe if the right beads come along I’ll play with a new design but I’m enjoying wearing it like thisat the moment.
Once I’d made the necklace, I of course needed some earrings to wear with it, so I pulled out a pair of Heather’s charms and some Czech glass beads and whipped up a pair in coordinating colours.
Thank you for the colourful inspiration ABS, I now have a new go-to necklace and I have some more birds and some more knitted beads that may find themselves paired together in something similar in the near future!
January’s a funny time of the year for me. On one hand, I am usually not working so I should have plenty of time to do things. On the other hand it is the summer school holidays down here in Australia, and the chorus of “Mum I’m bored” from my three kids can be overwhelming. It’s hard to hear the muse amidst the clamour!
Thankfully, Heather Powers from Humblebeads has come to the rescue with a fun creative activity to get things moving — the Muffin Tin Challenge! Basically, a muffin tin is filled with jewellery projects, one per hole. And then, as time permits, the projects can be pulled out and completed.
Now in theory, each muffin hole should contain all of the materials required for the project, but I never manage to be quite that organised. Instead I put in my focal and a few coordinating beads, and when I pull out the project from the tin, I find whatever else I need — findings, chain, extra beads and so on — in my stash.
So for the last two weeks I’ve had a muffin tin full of projects and I’ve been adding bits and pieces as I go. But of course, I’ve left it to the last minute to do anything! Last night I made five pairs of earrings, and this morning I’ve made a quick and easy necklace. I was going to make more than one but … kids! But I will keep going with my muffin tin over the next days and weeks, I hope!
Here’s the tin, with various focals and pendants, as well as some of the beads I picked out to go with the them.
My first pair of earrings will probably be used for next week’s Earrings Everyday challenge, but here’s a picture of them anyway. Enamel charms by Cathleen Zaring, lampwork by Lesley McIver.
Another pair featuring Cathleen’s enamel charms, in sunny blues and yellows (it is summer here after all!).
This pair of earrings showcases Heather’s new style of earring charms – they are very versatile! The pink flowers remind me of eucalyptus blossoms.
My fourth pair matches stunning lampwork spikes by Liz DeLuca with faceted Czech glass.
And last, but definitely not least, these stunning lampwork spikes by Liz DeLuca go beautifully with Rebecca Anderson‘s “end of the day” beaded beads.
The necklace is an homage to Heather’s gorgeous variety of stacked necklaces, with one of her beautiful gilded folk art birds on top of an equally gorgeous Czech glass briar rose bead.
Thank you for the challenge Heather, it did give me the kick up the bum I needed to get started this year! Now to start thinking about the Art Bead Scene challenge for January …
To see what others have made, visit Heather’s post here for the links.
I really enjoyed the book. It’s sad of course, given that the two main characters meet at a cancer group for teens, but I really liked Hazel and Augustus, and thought them very believable teens. I need to find time to watch the movie I think!
Now, I have to confess that the pieces I’m going to show you now are not all inspired directly by the books, but they fit the inspiration perfectly. I was quite taken with the Encouragements—illustrated sayings that decorated the house of Augustus and his family. I could just picture them as I read, cross-stitched maybe or perhaps with Mary Engelbreit illustrations.
Late last year I started to make what I call Inspiration Bracelets. I use stamped metal bars from the scrapbooking/papercrafts designer Tim Holtz which have inspirational sayings on them, and I stitch them with waxed linen to leather bracelets. They’ve been pretty popular at my markets and in the couple of shops which sell my jewellery. I think they fit the idea of Encouragements perfectly!
But I also wanted to make something using a specific encouragement from the book—Home is where the heart is. Such a great saying, it’s so true, and yet so twee! I have lots of house beads and pendants in my stash, and with a bit of digging I unearthed a beauty, a colourful little polymer clay house (maker unknown) with a heart in the window! I also discovered I really need to work on my stamping skills, as I am not too happy with the little brass disc, on which I have stamped the saying. I will probably remake it in the coming days.
Thanks again to Andrew and William for choosing such a great selection of books. I’m looking forward to the next few challenges!
Michelle McCarthy‘s second design challenge is upon us, and this time, we had a seaside theme to work with. The kit contained a variety of components including a pendant, a bracelet focal, charms and beads by Michelle, in two colourways: sandy or blue. I chose the blue and waited somewhat impatiently for the kit to arrive in the mail. Ever noticed that it takes longer if you’re waiting for it?
Anyhow, the kit I received looked something like this (picture pinched from Michelle):
Also in the kit was a mystery component by Cory Tompkins aka Tealwater Designs. Of course I neglected to take a photo of it, but you’ll see it in my pieces. Armed with the kit, I looked through my stash for some beads that would work well with the soft blue and sandy tones of the components. Surprisingly, I didn’t have as much as I thought in there that would work with it, but I ended up with a nice selection.
I put the earrings together first, embellishing Michelle’s charms with a little brass starfish swinging gaily in front.
The necklace features Cory’s mystery component—a small polymer clay link decorated with a sea urchin-like texture—as a secondary element on one side. The beads are mostly Czech glass, with a single faux sea glass teardrop opposite the textured link, as well as some of Michelle’s ceramic beads from the kit. I had a pretty blue silk ribbon to use as a closure.
I used much the same combination of beads in the bracelet.
And here’s a picture of the whole set together. I love the muted palette, perfect for a wintery seaside visit (hey, well, I do live in Australia and winter has arrived this week).
If you’d like to see some of the other designs, you can see them here in the Firefly Design Studio Designer Challenge Group on Facebook. I believe that while the voting period is open, the page is public, and you can vote by Liking photos, so like/love/wow away! To go straight to my designs, click here. And thank you for your appreciation!
This month in the Inspired by Reading Book Club and challenge our book was The Swan Thives: A Novel by Elizabeth Kostova. It was a big book but surprisingly readable for all that, with a dash of intrigue, a psychological element and a good dose of art history. In any case I enjoyed it!
The premise of the story is a psychiatrist trying to understand his patient — renowned painter Rob Oliver — who has attacked a painting purported to be by a particular artist of the French impressionist school. Oliver’s story is told largely to Dr Marlow by his wife and his ex-lover, and gradually uncovers an obsession with a young French woman, an impressionist painter torn between her respectable marriage and her passion for art. Ultimately the mystery is solved by the psychiatrist.
Although I sometimes found the jumping between the characters confusing, I thought that the author painted a good picture of Oliver and the obsession that overtakes his art. And I loved the author’s vivid imagery, which suited a book about painters.
There were two elements of the book that I wanted to explore with my Jewellery but unfortunately I only had time this month for one. The angle I didn’t have time to take was to look at some of the impressionist paintings mentioned in the book, including those by Alfred Sisley, who painted a number of streetscapes in the towns of Louveciennes and Moret-sur-Loing, both mentioned in the course of the story. I even picked out a set of boro lampwork beads in the colours of a winter streetscape that I wanted to use, but I realized I need to figure out the best way to highlight the beautiful beads.
But the other scene that grabbed my attention was from early in the book, when the psychiatrist Andrew Marlow was visiting the scene of his patient’s crime at the National Gallery of Art. He meets a young woman (who unbeknownst to him will become crucial to the story) and it is his description of the Jewellery she wore that got my attention:
… on her collarbone she wore a necklace if knotted leather strung with long ceramic beads that looked as if they could have had prayer parchments rolled up inside them. (Chapter 6, The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova)
I came across a polymer clay bead made by local artisan Jenny Church (she doesn’t have a website but she sells through the Facebook group Australian Art Beads), that was long and covered in mysterious writing. I asked Jenny if she would make me some matching beads, and knotted them all together on leather with some Greek ceramic beads with a grey and gold look. I used more of the Greek ceramics to make a button and loop closure to the necklace.
I was quite pleased with the chunky look of the piece, it’s not often that I use big beads in my jewellery designs.
Of course I didn’t forget the art beads at BeadFest. Some of my favourite beadmakers were there, as well as some I have eyed from afar but never seen in person.
A group of beadmakers had a progressive make’n’take going on, so of course I had to play along. The ceramic house is by Diane Hawkey, the copper house frame was made by me on Brenda Schweder’s Now that’s a Jig wire wrapping jig, the dangles are by Nikki Thornburg (who also showed me a cool way to wire-wrap long stems) and the tiny enameled tubes were from C-Koop Beads (who also provided the leather). I’ve worn this a lot as I’ve travelled around the US, it’s nice and light for summer and the colours work beautifully with a lot of my clothing.
I also bought some more beads from Nikki Thornburg—some of her headpins. I’m sure I can find some uses for them somewhere!
Between Diane Hawkey and Nikki Thornburg was Marsha Neal Studio. Marsha was absolutely lovely and we chatted for ages (more than once!). I bought a few bead pairs from her, one of her organic pod/vessels (and one for my mum, not pictured) and one of her great wrap bracelet kits. Which I had every intention of making as I travelled but, well, you know …
And I had to buy a few somethings from C-Koop Beads too.
I had lunch with one of my very favourite bead makers, Heather Powers, on Saturday and then had a little splurge at her booth. Such beautiful beads, I could have bought one of everything. We also did a little swap – more on that in the next blog post.
Staci Smith’s stand was full of fabulous treasures. I picked out some fun bits and pieces there, and a gorgeous necklace for my sister in law’s 40th birthday (yes I know I could have just bought some of the components and made something myself, but the necklace just seemed right for her, apologies as I don’t have a picture of it).
Michelle McCarthy, a swap buddy of mine from the old Bead Swap USA group (now disbanded) had a booth of her ceramics (Firefly Design Studio) and I selected some great summery beads and pendants there.
Right next door was Anne Gardanne‘s stall and I picked up some more enameled components there.
At Jenny Davies-Reazor ‘s booth, I picked up one of her mixed media word pendants — this one just called to me and I suspect I’ll be keeping it. And then I did some swapping with the Art Jewelry Elements girls, again more on that tomorrow.
I have to say, it’s fantastic to actually be able to see the beads in person, pick them up and fondle them. Although it makes choosing them even harder.
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!
A couple of months ago, Lori Anderson announced a blog hop she was holding with Heather Millican of Swoondimples: The Art of Awareness blog hop. Swoondimples is known for its word beans, polymer clay beads with inspirational word(s) stamped on them. The idea was to choose a cause that means something to you, order a custom bead from Heather to represent the cause through words or colour and make something with the bead.
I thought about this hop for a while, as I found it hard to settle on a particular cause—like everyone, lives in my family and friendship circles have been touched by cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, heart disease and more. I felt that what I chose should mean something to me, and eventually it came to me.
Yes, I know it’s not really a disease, but to me it’s just as important to raise awareness of the importance of immunizing children against the handful of really awful childhood diseases. It’s probably the one thing that will get me up on my high horse! Perhaps a little background will help. I’m an immunologist and microbiologist by degree (although I no longer work as a scientist) and I worked for a number of years for a biotech company developing vaccines against herpes and influenza. I know firsthand what motivates the scientists doing this kind of R&D and believe me, it’s not money (if you think any scientist does research for the money, think again). Put simply, it’s about stopping children from dying from entirely preventable diseases like whooping cough and measles.
Now I know that many people don’t agree with me, and I am not writing about this to start a debate (so please don’t leave me nasty messages), and I’m not going to get any further into the politics of vaccines and immunization. If you are interested about the issues, I do urge you to watch an award-winning Australian documentary made a couple of years ago, that does a pretty good job of presenting the debate. It’s called Jabbed and you can find snippets of it on YouTube, and the full version on SBS On Demand (SBS is one of our public television networks here in Australia) among other places. And that’s where I am going to leave the issue of the motivation behind my choice.
Anyway, when I decided on immunization as my cause, I looked to see if there was any kind of official awareness campaign, but as far as I can tell, there is not, at least not in the way that diseases such as breast cancer have specific colours and ribbons and so on. There are events like National Immunization Week in the US, but they don’t have the high profile campaigns that some diseases have. Instead I chose to create my own. I picked lime green for my bead colour (partly because that was one of the colours used in one of the events I came across) and I came up with the words Defend and Protect to stamp on the bean. I also chose not to have a ribbon stamped on the back.
I toyed with the idea of creating an immunization superhero for my design, but sadly, I’m not capable of drawing something like that. So in the end I put my bead into a bracelet with some equally bold colours—orange and light purple to go with the lime green—and strung on waxed linen. And here is the end result.
Now, this is a blog hop, and there are a bunch of people taking part, so go and have a look at what they made and why. I can guarantee you’ll find some really interesting stories! Here’s the list:
This year’s theme was SOAR. To me, the word evokes a bird high up in the sky, wings outstretched, soaring through the sky, or hovering. I decided that this was an image I wanted to incorporate into my charms. I had some small Vintaj bezel charms that I could use, but the back of them was not flat and finished-looking. And also, I really wanted to include the word soar into my design. So I decided to go for a mixed media design.
On the back side of the charm, I pressed a small lump of turquoise-coloured polymer clay to cover the grooves. I gave it some texture, used some rubber stamps to press the word soar into it and baked it. I used acrylic paint (in a burnt umber colour) to highlight the texture and words without covering up the lovely colour, and sealed with Renaissance wax.
Then I pasted and sealed the images into the bezel side of the charm and finished it off with resin. The images, which I got from Piddix on Etsy, are quite fun, they show the silhouette of a soaring bird over a background of rusty, patinaed metal.
I picked out the 11 best to send to Jennifer Cameron. She then sent 10 of them out to participants (including me, as we each got one of our own back), and kept the last one for the auction. And here is a nice close up picture of my charm that is being auctioned right here right now!
At the time of writing this blog post it has a starting price of USD$9.99. If you like it, please bid on it and help raise some funds for Beads of Courage. 100% of the sale price goes to Beads of Courage—I would love to see it sell for a good price! The auction goes for seven days, and this one will be ending next Monday night December 1st, at 10:17pm EST or Tuesday afternoon AEST if you happen to live in Australia like me (note: you should check the auction end-time in your own time zone).
A few more things. I will post the charms I received in a few days (maybe this weekend). And also, this post is part of the Art Charm Exchange blog hop. Here is a list of the rest of the participants. Please take some time to visit their blogs and the other auctions and see what they were inspired to make!