Snippets from a bead artist.


Rocks! And on Color

Good morning,  I hope everyone is having a good start to the day!  Yesterday I finished and photographed my latest beady rock.  I was calling it the Rainbow Well Rock, as it is a rock that came from digging up our water pump last year, but it has morphed into Standing Stones rock because of the finished beady 'rocks' sitting on top.  We have a brook nearby where folks have stacked many standing stones, and I love to visit them even if it's only passing by in the car on our way somewhere. They always make me think of magic and peace and fairy folk.

When I went to place Standing Stones with my other beady rocks, I had a bit of an eye opener!  My husband has been insisting that although my beady block has been painful and scary for me, the art journaling and art classes I am taking would eventually impact my beading and bring me back to it, too, and that the break wasn't all bad.  This was really hard for me to hear, especially during those times when I completely despaired and thought that I would never be able to bead again...  but I think that he was right; the art has made me approach my color choices in a very different way, one that I like a lot!  So I am posting photos in order, of beady rocks I have made from past to present, just as I saw them in my studio this morning, to show you what I saw.  :)

Below is a photo of my very first ever beady rock - it doesn't even have a name, so we'll just call it Rock #1 - and I made it using freeform peyote stitch and a bead soup that someone had given me as a gift.  This was years and years and years ago now...over twelve or thirteen years, I think.

Next is Woodland Whimsy... the first photo shows it encased and the second (horrible!) photo shows what it looks like with the flower embellishment added.

Then came the Jelly Mill Rock...

And Turtle Cove, which is three rocks woven separately and then woven together to form a sort of reef, with lots of little surprises hidden in it, turtles and shells and a fish based on Karen William's fishies.

Then Froggie Knoll, a freeform peyote rock made specifically for a short tutorial on covering rocks in Karen's Explorations in Freeform Peyote Beading book...

Then a rock I made for my dear friend Julie Cowan, which has a tiny bit of bead embroidery on it to hold the little mushroom house securely...

My Totem Rock, which I made with freeform right angle weave and fibers added in just to see if I could...

And finally, Standing Stones.  Do you see what I see?

I have always been comfortable and easy with darker, more subdued shades and almost monochromatic soups, but I'm getting better with color!  I can't take the credit for this bead soup at all, the soup was a gift from my wonderful friend Marcia DeCoster, and so it uses all her glorious color ways together  - but I have put the colors in patches that really make me happy, and even though it's random, it is nothing like the kind of chaotic randomness I started from with Rock #1.   And these days I can even work with Orange a little bit without freaking out!! (Someone who knows me pretty well knows that orange and I don't get along - we make each other very anxious and sometimes even panicky.)  In the past I have used some brighter colors, but always tentatively and never with abandon.  I greatly envied people such as Suzanne Golden and Betty Cox, who effortlessly use color in joyously wide swathes which make their pieces sing and dance, and not just dance but BOOGIE.  My 'style' has always been antique-ish and quiet, which is also nice and quite classic, but not as exciting or startling.

My own exploration into more colorful beading started from Beverly Ash Gilbert's wonderful book and her outstanding bead soups (which she is destashing and will no longer be making - if you see some in her shop, GRAB THEM, cause when they're gone, they're gone for good).  Using Beverly's instructions on soup making and how to add low lights and dark lights, I started making some of my own soups up and luuuuuuuuuurved it!  Then along came a lot of sadness, and a block which made it so that all of a sudden, I just could not bead.  I would stand and stare at my bead mat, and it would sit and stare back at me.  Nothing.  I kept it out, and I kept beads on it, and sometimes I would put those beads away and get out a new set of beads to see if they would be happier... and put out mixes and beautiful beads that friends sent to me to help inspire me, and it would still sit and stare at me.  Last month I stood and stared at it and desperately wondered if I should just put it away, not just the beads but the mat and all the tools, too.

During the mute, staring time of the last seven months, I began taking art classes and doing art journaling, dipping my toes into the Mixed Media community (I have more craft/scrapbooking supplies than any human should, and it made sense to me to go for something arty that kind of encompassed everything at once)...  and discovered that I am MUCH braver with color when it comes in the form of paints or pencils or pens or paper.  As with beads, the mixed media art started off as a form of therapy, to try to help me with my grief.  Like beads, I started to immerse myself more and more... and would get scared and back away because I didn't want it to take the place of the beads.  And my husband would tell me (and my therapist, and my friends) that it was a bridge, not a destination.  And that there was room for both.    And I kept on happily/anxiously/desperately/depressedly/hopefully slopping paint and texture paste and taking more classes and making more journals... and one day I looked at Marcia's soup, and the well rock that was sitting there, and picked them both up and it worked.  Standing Stones makes me grin, and it says COLOR - POW!! all over it, and I love it!!!!  I am hoping I will eventually be able to bring some of my new color bravery into some jewelry pieces, but that is thinking ahead too far, and right now I am concentrating on right NOW and just making some rocks while my beads are being friendly.

A friend commenting on Standing Stones said that it looked like a visiting rock from a rainbow universe... and so now my brain is wondering what a 'nebula' rock might look like...  :)


Hi Again & Tips and Tricks with Bead Embroidery

Hi everyone.  It's been ten months since I posted here...  sorry for the long wait.  The intervening months were full of personal losses that don't really belong here on my blog, but I am hoping that the bead muse will finally be coming back to me now.  I am working on a bead embroidered cuff, and have managed one small bead embroidered pendant, so I thought I would share the pendant and a few thoughts on bead embroidery in general.  :)

This little lady is created around a handcrafted cabochon goddess from SweetBananaBerry on Etsy.  She didn't need much to ornament her, she was so pretty to begin with!  I am lucky enough to have several more (all different) of these cabochons and look forward to making more pendants - it was a fun project.  She's made using 24t gold AB seed and cylinder beads and Swarovski components in Summer Blush and Crystal Copper, as well as a CZ in light olivine.  Her chain is a variation of my Changeable Chain tutorial, with 2.5mm and 3mm crystals added on top of the weave in the front.

At the moment I am working on a cuff using a huge boulder opal, and three opal doublets with matte metallic and metallic beads, as well as some beautiful swirly 'relic' looking polymer clay components made by Barbara Briggs.  Although the goddess pendant is faintly freeform in the actual embroidery - I didn't try to be perfectly symmetrical - this cuff is very freeform in approach, and while it will have a static border, the inside landscape is hopefully going to just go where it wants to.  While I was working on it, I was thinking about things I do in my embroidery and thought I would share them with you...  I have no idea if they are things that are already out there in someone's books, or if they're unique to me, but it's how I approach stuff in my own work.

One of the things that really bothered me when I first started embroidering with beads, was getting the spacing right between beads/rows of beads.  I seemed to always be bunching them up and getting bumpy lines rather than nice, neat flat ones, and my rows of beads also seemed to end up too close together, crowding each other and sort of piling up.  I think I made it harder on myself because I started with cuffs rather than pendants or collars - and with cuffs, getting things to space neatly is even harder, because you're working flat on something that will end up curved around an armature or a wrist.  While the space might look perfect while you have it on your mat, when you put it around your cuff blank or your wrist, all of a sudden you're seeing gaps and backing.  Argh!!   I'll talk about the flat embroidery first and go on to the cuffs after.

Do you have issues with stitching directly up through the middle of your bead line in backstitch?  I do!!  I always seem to end up just off enough to make my line wonky.  So I gave up trying to get that needle to come up directly in the line.  Instead, I choose a side of the line and consistently stitch up as close to the middle as I can.  Usually this means my thread is coming up to the right of middle.  As long as I make sure that I don't inadvertently stitch off to the left, the line stays consistent and this way, although my stitches aren't perfectly in the middle of the line, they still make my beads line up correctly because I am always on the same path.  And I struggle much less.

When I was always trying to stitch directly between beads and perfectly in the middle of the line, I also noticed that my bead spacing was way off...  The needle would move the line a little and disguise how much space I actually needed when laying down the next set of beads; by stitching to the right slightly I don't disturb the beads.  I would stitch down too close to the last bead I strung and it bunched my beads together.  I solved this by leaving myself too much room.  I now lay the beads down, snug them up to the rest of the line, and then stitch down about a bead away from the last bead added.  This means that I have room to move the beads either forward to smooth out a bump, or snug them back tighter to hide exposed thread before adding the next set down, and makes it much easier to get a smooth line.

In fact, too much room is my catch phrase now.  Because we always snug them up, don't we?  And go through the entire line of beads again, always, even if it's a short line.  Going back through the entire line of beads  again is massively important for two reasons (and probably more!) - it aligns the beads up while tightening it at the same time, and it gives us a handy way to make adjustments if things still don't look as nice as we'd like.  Now that you have that long thread stretching the entire length of the line, if you adjust that thread in any one spot, you will be adjusting the beads, too - all along the length of the line.  So if your curve is looking a bit iffy, and you can spot that one place where it seems to be hung up, you can do a couching stitch (pulling one way or the other) on your thread to adjust the line, or you can stitch through just one bead and pull the line whichever way you need to; it will effect beads on both sides of the one you adjusted, and subtly down the whole line.

When going around things, bezels and such, I stitch as close as I can to the bezel for the first row of beads only.  After that, I give myself too much room again.  On the second and subsequent rows, I place my bead line about half of a bead size to a whole bead size LARGER, away from the first row.  If you aren't doing a full line all the way around the object, you may see a hair's worth of backing.  Remember that you're pretty much the only person who will be seeing your work at this close of range, and that the hair's width will not show later, for a variety of reasons - the color of the backing, how close your next line of seed beads or accent beads will be (as they may shift it and hide the backing), etc.    For example, if I am outlining a circular object, like one of Barbara's swirly pieces, I will start my line of size 15s as if I were actually placing a line of 11s. (If I'm using 11s, I give myself a space that is approximately one and a half 11s.) I continue this placement all the way around, and I come up for my next backstitch on the outside of the line rather than the inside or the middle.

The beads naturally curve slightly closer than the stitching as you lay them down because you're going around.  

Then, when I go through all of the beads again, the second line snugs up to the first line withOUT bunching up the two rows, and without possibly popping the object up from the backing (which can happen with glued components or components which are held down with a single bead, such as this - the beads being too tight can cause the glue to give and lift your object).

Finished circle without going through the line again

Line reinforced and snugged.

When it comes time to add stop stitches I give myself more room than I need to place those too... and if some of the backing shows through, I can always put in a size 15 to hide the space.

When I work on a cuff, I do all the same things, with the exception of the very center, where I will deliberately crowd a few lines, so that when I curve the work, it will lie smoothly.  The middle three inches will need less spacing and more snug work than the sides and toward the back.  On these lines or accents, I will stitch just the size of the bead, not a half size or full size larger, and I will come up on the inside of the line rather than the outside when backstitching lines unless the line is around an object.  Complete a small portion at a time, and wrap it around to check - if there are gaps or spaces showing, adjust your beads accordingly, or add in either size 15s or charlottes.  Most of the time, if you've gone through your work with a single line of thread after you stitched it down, you can use that thread to adjust your spacing rather than having to redo the whole line.   In the photo of the center of the work on my cuff, it's laying flat on my mat, and the work looks bunched up - but when I wrap it around the cuff blank, it lies smoothly and the beads don't look crowded.

I think a lot of it is about practice, and getting used to bead widths.  If I am using a shaped bead (such as the Superduos here), I have to really think about the placement and how much room it will need, while working with seed beads is more of a habit, where my hands just do it.

I hope some of this was helpful rather than boring, lol.    I also hope it won't be quite such a long time between posts now... and that you all have a wonderful evening.


Winner of my Soup Giveaway

Thanks so much to everyone for commenting and hopping around on the blogs for Karen Williams' most excellent Explorations in Freeform Peyote book!  My pups and I sat down with some scraps of paper this morning, and Teddy picked Mary Harding as the winner of my soup giveaway!  Mary, send me an email and let me know your mailing address.  :)

Cheers, all - I hope you have a great time free forming with your new book, and have a grand day!  I'm leaving you with an image of a tag that I created for my new adventure this year - I'm taking an art course that lasts the whole year, on mixed media!!  The course is called Life Book, and if you google, you will see that it's a FABULOUS experience - I'm only three weeks in, and having a blast.  Paints, papers, pens, pencils, here I come!!


Freeform Beading ROCKS!!

And so does this book by Karen Williams, Explorations in Freeform Peyote Beading!  Karen asked me to take part in the book, an honor and a joy!  Everyone who knows me, knows that I adore freeform work.  Karen has given some of us in the book a chance to blow our own whistles and to share some of the terrific work you can find in there, here on this Book Blogging Tour.   Please read through my post, because there is info at the end about two giveaways, in case you're interested...  ;)

Let me tell you, Explorations is totally wonderful!  And perfect for those of you who have been hesitant to try your hand at freeform, but really love the look.  Karen has created an album of work and instruction that is fabulous on the eyes, easy to follow and just SO inspiring!  As a teaser of what you would have in store if you go and buy the book, here's an excerpt from Karen's blog:

"All told, Exploration's 174 pages includes images of ninety three pieces by twenty two artists (including myself) from three continents and four countries.  Detailed photo essays give a closer look at the construction and/or design process for twenty nine of the pieces, ranging from earrings and brooches to bracelets, necklaces, beaded bottles and even three-dimensional beaded fish."  

And some mind blowing work from artists included in here, starting with Karen herself, who explains how she created this gorgeous Poppy Brooch in one of my favorite chapters:

Karen Williams - Poppy Hat Brooch

And showcasing this stunning peyote draped bottle by Cortney Phillips (and she has another one in there, too!);

 Cortney Williams - Untitled

And this most awesome ring by Lisa Jones;
 Lisa Jones - Emerald City Ring

And this beauty of a necklace by the wonderful Saturday Sequins;

Sarah Meadows - Ocean

And, one of my personal favorites (this color combination just speaks to me) from Wendy Hatton, a necklace and earring set that I would just die for;

 Wendy Hatton - Homage to Amphritite

My piece in the book is one of my beaded rocks (which I called Froggie Knoll), where Karen let me explain how I wrap these little stones and turn them into mini landscapes. :)

After seeing all that, you MUST want to check out more!! There are eight chances available to be part of Karen's Giveaway from this blog tour - make sure to check out the rules and what the fabulous prizes are on her post HERE!  :)  Cynthia Machata of Antiquity Travelers has already made her post, so don't forget to hop there, too.  Should you now want your own copy of this marvel, you can buy one on Amazon, or from Karen herself, and both a Kindle edition and an eBook are in the works for those of you who prefer a digital format.

On my post here, I am going to give away a little bead soup, so that one of you can start your freeform journey right away.  Leave me a comment, and I'll put your name in the hat!!  I have some lovely little soups just hanging around in my stash...  ;)

Thank you so much for this opportunity, Karen, I am so honored to be a part of your fantastic book!  (I hope we all manage to turn some beaders into freeformers!!)

Blog Tour List:
January 15th: Karen Williams - Baublicious
January 16th: Cynthia Machata - Antiquity Travelers
January 17th: Me!!
January 18th: Bobbie Rafferty - Beadsong Jewelry
January 19th: Natalia Malysheva - Aqvatali 
                       Sarah Meadows - Saturday Sequins
January 20th: Ibolya Barkoczi -Ibolya-gy├Ângyei
                       Mandi Ainsworth - Bead Circle 


A New Tutorial - Carol's Bracelet

I have a new tutorial out there in my Etsy shop!  I'm excited, because this really just flowed for me, and the last one was a bit of a slog.  I really like it, and best of all, the friend I named this for likes it, too!  Introducing Carol's Bracelet, a pretty and dainty piece which is really wearable:

I haven't taken my Montana/Egyptian blue one off since I made it.  ;)  I am addicted to them, and have been working on another one; gold this time, I think.  I love using the 6mm chatons, they add just the right amount of sparkle, and I like the 2mm pearls because they're fun to work with.  The 2mm crystals in the bezels are optional, and easily replaced with a size 11 seed bead.  If you'd like a copy of this tutorial, it is available HERE.

A few people have asked if it was possible to use a 39SS 8mm chaton in place of the little 29SS 6mm ones, and so I had to have a try this morning and see how it worked.  I thought I would share the results in case anyone else would like to try it that way, too.  BOY it is shiny!!!!

Here's what changes in the pattern; You will need to start your bezel with 8 Bs instead of the called for 6 As.  From there, use all Bs for Steps 2&3, and of course there will be more repeats around your base circle.  In Step 7 you use the same beads called for with the 6mm, again with more repeats.  Your crystal round will consist of 8 2mms rather than 6, and you will have a total of 8 picots around.  Make the connections as directed, the only change is that you will have three 'free' picots top and bottom rather than two.  :)

Because of the change in chaton sizes, you will most likely need to leave off the extra embellished diamond before your clasp.  I used Light Bronze #457L, Aqua Shimmer chatons, aqua AB 2mm and 4mm crystals and white pearls for my sample.

Before I go, I just want to remind everyone that my Annual Sale will still be happening this next weekend, as well - you can read more about that in my last blog post HERE.  Thanks for reading!


NEDbeads Annual Shop Sale

Hey everyone, here's to hoping you had a fabulous Thanksgiving (if you're in the US) and that you're having a stress free (ha!!) time of it with your holiday preparations.

I am encouraging everyone to please consider giving PDF tutorials as gifts for beady friends this year in the hopes of helping out some of the designers all around Planet Bead who may have to close down the digital download features in their shops due to the VAT changes being made.  Please consider buying for a friend, as these tutorials may not be available come the new year.  I know I'm hoping to be able to have a bit of a splurge myself on some tutorials out there!

Every year I have a sale in my Etsy shop and it works like this:  If you buy a pattern in my shop, you get a free pattern to send to a beady friend for Christmas.  Just leave your friend's name and email address (and any message you'd like included with their PDF) in the Notes to Seller section at checkout, and I will email them the pattern of your choice, either the day of purchase or on Christmas Eve, whichever you prefer.  My sale runs each weekend (Friday through Sunday) throughout the month of December.  Money is always tight this time of year, and a tutorial makes a great gift (especially when shipping is so high nowadays)!   Hint - shopping around in your friends' Favorites on Etsy always works.  ;)

Please note that this is not a regular Buy One Get One sale - I won't send you a free tutorial if you purchase, but will only send one to a friend as a gift.

(If you aren't already aware and horrified by the VAT business, and want info on it, just Google VATMOSS or VATMESS and you'll be deluged.)


Beads Of Courage Art Charm Auction Reveal!

It's TIME!!  I get to show you all the gorgeous that I got from my fellow artists and the humble little  charm that I made to swap.  I also get to happily urge you to go follow my link to the Auctions on Ebay and ask you to bid as high as you can on any of the charms that are up for sale - it's all going to a really awesome cause.  ALL profits from the sales go to Beads of Courage, which provides beads and more importantly, HOPE to children from all over who suffer with cancer of many kinds.  To learn more about BOC, please click HERE.

But first a really huge thank you to Jennifer Cameron for setting this up and making it all happen again this year.  It's a huge task to get this blog hop/auction/swap together and running smoothly, and Jen is completely awesome.  Please make sure to visit her blog when you hop to all the others in my list, and give her some love.

This year's theme for our charms was 'Soar' and it really did challenge me.  I had to ask for some  help from my fellow participants, who responded readily with some awesome ideas.  Such a list!!  But the one that stuck out for me (and several others) was the visualization of a floating, soaring, bobbing kite in a blue sky, on a summer's day.  I set out to make myself one;  I had some help from Diane Fitzgerald's Shaped Beadwork and Beyond book, where she shows how to make a very nice elongated triangle.  I added my a smaller triangle on top to get it looking more kite-like.  I made them with different colored Delica beads so that there would be a variety, but I think my favorite is (surprise, I know!) the purple one on the upper left.  ;)

I did want to have the tail of the kite as part of the design, but it just looked wrong in beads, so I ended up using a piece of sterling chain on each one.  I was going to add a little crystal to the ends, but ran out of headpins (of course!),  so decided the sparkle would have to be in the middle and sewed a 3mm roses montee with a surround to each kite.

Compared to some of the beautiful work I received in turn, I feel like my kite is kind of hokey, but I also feel like I accomplished what I set out to do, given how cranky my muse was this year.

Onward, to show you the fabulous charms I received!  I apologize to my fellow artists for the poor photography  - we had a little family upheaval this weekend, and my husband wasn't able to get to his camera, so I was forced to take the photos myself with my little point and shoot.  These are all much more amazing than what the pics show!!

This first grouping consists of charms from Renetha Stanziano of LamplightCrafts , Moriah Betterly of Blu Mudd, and Alenka Obid of Pepita.  So pretty!!  I love the colors in Renetha's Bubbly Bauble, and the birds are most definitely soaring on Moriah's sage green charm!  And Alenka's leaf charm... you know how much I love leaves!! There is an open eye on the eye pin and I can see a tiny crystal hanging in that perfect pear shape.  

The second set of gorgeous includes charms from Lennis Carrier of Windbent, Monique Urquhart of A Half Baked Notion and Perri Jackson of Shaktipaj Designs.  Lennis' kite is so pretty - and so full of movement!!  I love her version of the kite tail, and the way the SOAR lettering is moving right along with the rest of the design.  Monique's was just too pretty to take off of her card - I must admit now that I haven't removed her charm from last year's card, either - I love the ribbon and the presentation so much.  Such a lot of intricate work here, with the bee and the flowers... love.  And the lovely hot air balloon that Perri created is so full of color and joy!  You can NOT look at this charm and not smile with delight.

My last set of charms has two pics because I just had to show both sides.  These were made by Elisabeth Auld of Beads For Busy Gals, Cate vanAlphen of Fulgorine, and Lesley Watt of Thea Elements.  Elisabeth's charm is so floaty and lovely - I'm calling it a balloon, even though I haven't seen her reveal post yet, because to me it looks ethereal and ready to soar into the sky at any moment.  Cate's charm knocked my socks right off, with the stylized bird flying so freely - and the colors!! That gold is so sparkly and lovely and Bollywood in person!!  The feather on the reverse is magnificent.  Lesley's double sided kite is fantastic - I'm so jealous, lol!  The first photo shows the colors of the BOC campaign, and the reverse in the second photo shows a hot pink background to a really sweet heart.

I love every single one of them!! And I must get myself busy making things with them, they are each inspiring in their own way.  Not only because of the obvious beauty and execution, but also because they were made with so much love and care - they have to be on something very special.  Thank you so much for my charms!!

Now I urge you to sit down with your favorite cup of whichever beverage makes you happy and comfy cozy, and hop around to all of the other blogs to see the reveals - I can't wait to see what everyone says about their designs!  I also have to get going over to the auction myself, because I just KNOW there are more charms there that I GOTTA have!!  See you there!

Gah!!!  I can't seem to post the complete list of blog links, I have no idea why - PLEASE go to Jennifer Cameron's BLOG for the link list and hop to see everyone else's posts!!