Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Leaf - a long DIP (Design in Progress)

Alain de Botton, a UK-based Swiss writer and philospher wrote: "For us to deem a work of architecture elegant, it is not enough that it look simple: we must feel that the simplicity it displays has been hard won...

It is my hope that this comes to mind when looking at my latest necklace, The Leaf.

Because some designs look really simple once they're finished, many think that it was easy. But the road leading to it was not necessarily simple or easy. This article is about the design process for this necklace. I took plenty of photos and made notes to write this post to show it to you. You will see that this design was not just made with Dimensional Peyote and Diamond Weave, but also with a looooot of frog stitch.

First Trapezino
I made this design for the annual International Bead Award (IBA), a beading contest organized by Perlen Poesie, a beautiful Magazine printed in Germany. In can only recommend it: it is very beautiful with many interesting projects and articles, and in this month's issue, the wonderful, incredibly talented Claudia Cattaneo is in the spot light.

The IBA contest is theme-based, this year Art Deco - Clean Lines / Simple Sophistication. I immediately started dreaming of beading something with Trapezino shapes, because I had made a deco-ish pendant with it already, which I really love. So I beaded and beaded Trapezinos and when I had a good pile of them I started playing with them. I also bought special hexagonal findings, which I included and assembled but nothing worked the way I wanted. It became quite a quest. A lot of frogstitching later, I decided to draw various necklaces with a software because beading this much was asking my arms too much. See the sketches with some annotations  below.

I like to put jewelry around
my neck when making it,
and ask hubby if he likes it.
Drawing with software does not necessarily translate into success, but it helps rejecting options. I put it all aside during a couple of months. After that, I came back to the Trapezinos with a fresh spirit, which resulted in something completely different and surprisingly beautiful: put in a certain sequence, a leaf became suddenly visible in the negative space between the shapes. I fell in love. Finally! It is necessary to fall in love with a design for a contest, at least for me: if it is not selected in the finals, I'm still happy with what I made, and the time invested is not regretted.

Already with nothing added, it was beautiful. With beautiful focals or pendants I find it more challenging to add material. I really wanted the leaf to stand out, but of course needed to add some 'sophistication' to the 'simple'.

What now?
Too crowded fringe....
First I added the pearl collar, using Diamond Weave. I think that DW creates a very beautiful, sleek look. I redid the band later to make button holes for the 'two-button' clasp. Then I added an extra row of Fire-polished beads for more color.


I thought of adding fringe, of course. Art Deco tassles are famous. But I was unhappy with the fringe - either it was too crowded with pearls, or not enough strands could be added (read: more frogstitching). A great tip from Diane Hyde is to print several copies of the photo of a necklace to see how it looks (photos reveal designing mistakes). I simply drew on the photos to see what I could add to the necklace. This is a
I decided to frame the leaf with a stylish, open lotus petal structure and to add fringe to the clasp.

Left and right with different
Briolettes? - No,
This part got frogstitched several times too, even one time because I made it intentionally "wrong": see the photo left: there is a a different left and right part, to see what would look best.

To see how a necklace drapes and how teardrops would look, and have a better sense of size, I like to work on a bust of my neck-size and use pins.

For a harmonious curve, the bottom 'leaf' became pretty long, and so I had to find something to fill that big empty space... I  tried to add a variety of drops/briolettes but found them to take away interest from the leaf.

Reversed pear?
What to add?
a V point? oh no, no, no...

Finding the right solution to
finish a design as hoped
is a source of great joy.
The front was nearly finished, but I really couldn't think of an acceptable finishing touch. That are moments where I can be pretty rude with Eddy, my muse. Forntunately, he (inspiration) came back quite fast under the form of a repetition of the arcs above!

And so voilà: the front was done.

To create a beautiful fringe,
a triangle with another leaf in
the negative space was added.

Then the clasp: a fringe hanging from a diamond was ok from an 'interspace' point of view, but the central diamond didn't offer many places to attach the strands.

I created an "obtuse isoceles", a triangle wider then high, also with a leaf design (trefoil) in the negative space. Each 'button' is attached to the two top points of the triangle.

I am very happy with this design. It is part of the nominees in the contest in company of very beautiful beadwork made by amazingly talented beaders:

I think that it looks great on me, but even more so on Fanny, who is a young nurse who works at the clinic where I have physiotherapy every week. Fanny accepted to model the necklace:

For the attribution of the public prize, you can vote for this necklace - and for other desighs - here:


  1. An engineering feat!!! I did not recognize the Trapezinos until you showed them to me in their simplest state. Absolute genius, the way you created fringe that also made leaf shapes, and the sympathy between the negative leave shape and the outline leaves in the fringe. Your design process looks a lot like mine, although I have only recently added diagrams to my tool box. But using photos to see what I have is one of my favorite tools! Congratulations my dear, win lose or draw, you have made magic with beads and y should be very proud of your accomplishment!

    1. Thank you very much for your wonderful reaction, Marsha! I am very happy with this piece. I was a bit sad when it was finished even though it seemed to take forever to make.

  2. Beautiful work, Cath! I love it!Congratulations and Good Luck!!!


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