Friday, March 31, 2017

What can a visitor, waves, flames and a skull have in common?

Embers - curled-up all wing

I don't think that I ever blogged about my Embers Cuff, which I made in 2015. It is a curled-up Jalisco Bangle made with twisted peyote (also called Cellini method) or, as in Contemporary Geometric Beadwork talk, an All wing. Admittedly it doesn't look like an all-wing, but that's because it is partially zipped. It could also be seen as a partially zipped 18-point (9 on each side) Yukka flower, which was actually the first 'All wing' that I made back in 2010, and where my collection of zig zag shaped creations all come from. Because they are zipped, my Yukka flowers look like puffy flowers. I like to fold and zip and curl peyote beadwork. It's so much fun.

Embers was a crazy thing to make. I called it gymnastics for the hands. It's impossible to tutify and quite impossible to teach, because it breaks needles if not beads. Artistic madness, but still a wonderful experiment. I'm very proud of it.

Pepper, Fork and YukkaFlower
Why do I write about it now? Because I had the visit of a really lovely lady, Esra. After having seen my beadwork in the Contemporary Geometric Beadwork books by Kate McKinnon, she contacted me a bit timidly via my Etsy shop to ask if I did workshops in Eastern Switzerland, or maybe elsewhere. I explained that my light-sensitivity doesn't let me do this, so she asked if she could come to my place and if, perhaps, we could make an Rick Rack start with an MRAW band together. I liked how she wrote to me and accepted with pleasure, although wondering why she wanted to do an MRAW band, seen that it is pretty well explained in the book. You can also learn a lot from various free tutorials.

To make a Rick Rack for the occasion, I looked back at Embers and thought 'why not try a Flaming Cuff on a Rick Rack start', to offer a simpler method, teachable, and maybe easier to adapt in size. It resulted in this lovely soft pink and silver "Unfinished Wave & Flames" cuff. One side is different than the other, because I made a "happy" mistake. You know, one that you decide to stick with and it results in something unexpectedly cool. I like it a lot and will take the idea further. It looks different from every angle, so I made many photos to show that.

Notice how the points and flaps twist off-center when the 'legs' of the Rick Rack are standing up, which is how it sits on the arm. These points and flaps can be twisted in various directions. It makes me think of air, of wind and of bouncing water. It is very playful.

I could take the MRAW band off, to make two separate cuffs and re-use the MRAW band. I could add pearls which would freeze the form (I love pearls). But somehow I like it as it is. Unfinished, not frozen, still modifyable. 

Esra came by train yesterday, from beautiful canton Appenzell, in other words the other side of Switzerland, which took her 4.5 hours to come, and 4.5 hours to go back (it's a small country but this still is a long journey for approximately 4 hours beading together, which passed by way too fast). I was a bit nervous that she'd be incommodated by the many birds in the same room even though she told me that she wasn't allergic to birds. She loved it. She loves nature as much as I do. And the beading area offered enough space for the two of us. The works in this room aren't finished (repainting, etc), but I arranged it a bit to make it a nice beading area.

Beading area. The birds are on the left (opposite wall).
We had a wonderful time. We enjoyed a good home-made chocolate-peanut butter pie with coffee. We fondled beadwork, talked a lot, about beading, about birds, fishes, nature and art. Esra is an artist. She artfully paints skulls, primarely with dots, and also on skulls. Not exactly what is called pointillism, which was a style born from impressionism, but rather the aborigenal type of painting. I like her work.

Postcard of a painting by Esra.
At first sight I thought that she covered skulls with beads, à la Jan Huling. I asked her if she would sell me a skull so that I can cover it with beads - she graciously offered me one and I am looking forward to playing with it. Watch this space!

"Symbols" - skull painted by Esra - Acrylic on synthetic replica
Photo courtesy
Isn't this replica amazing?
Thank you, Esra!
Esra's husband, Mick is also an artist. He is called a "Legendary Tattoo Artist". Google "Mick of Zurich" or have a look at a few images of this book dedicated to his incredible works of art. When I saw his work, I was very impressed - I have never seen something like this before. This man has amazing skills and is truly a precursor. His work makes you forget that the canvas is a body. I love to see the splashing fish, the bouncing water, the flowers, the Japanese deities. And his fire-breathing dragons are so beautiful too. Interestingly, it seems that somehow my love for Japanese art introduced Esra to my work - for she noticed my Kanagawa bangle in the book CGB vol no. 2.

Esra started beading completely spontaneously many years ago. She wanted to cover bags with beads and didn't know how to bead but just went for it, without instructions or so. No internet back then. Her silk bag not only looks lovely, but is also very pleasant to touch. The way she made them is also interesting. Not RAW or DW or so. She just followed her instinct. Over the years, her love for beads only grew, and she collected many beading books including the CGB and the Diamond Weave books.

Beaded bag by Esra.
Beaded silk bag by Esra.
Esra didn't need any help with the MRAW band at all - she showed me a gorgeous double red and black horned bangle and a beautiful green Rick Rack with perfect starts (so sorry, no pictures, we were totally absorbed in beading at this point).

What she seemed to wonder was why an MRAW band was necessary and if hers was well done. Hers was beautiful*. To explain this subject better, I proposed to make an ordinary peyote start in the round with increases, for her to experience how fast it becomes stiff due to thread tension. My Trapezino appears to be a cool project for this, because it is not too big, and also shows the magic of folding beadwork. I also showed Esra the clever method proposed by Diane Fitzgerald to better control thread tension in long peyote starts (as explained for her Celtic Trefoil design published in a beading magazine). This way, Esra would have all the elements in hands to better understand why the MRAW band is so practical, but also why Kate is so busy developing news ideas, that is to cast beadwork off of triangles or squares (which offers starts for multiples of 3 or of 4).

One of the two trapezinos made together

Once a beader knows which size suits her wrist best, these forms (triangles or squares) become a permanent tool in the beader's box. And with squares you can make warped bails, beautiful earrings (like Dusting Wedekind's awesome hypar earrings) or some of Mikki Ferrugiaro's fantastic designs like Time Fold or Krismekate, but nevertheless, the MRAW band remains extremely helpful, because the band has to be very long** and the square or triangle you need to bead up for it needs to be very big...

Esra left happy, and so I felt happy.

And now I am going back to my beading trays and see if I can make more flames and waves and flowers... and transform that skull!

*Esra included round beads in her MRAW band which made them softer and discreter than if they had been made with cylinder beads only. The result was very beautiful. 

**the zig zag shape of a Rick Rack only appears after a certain number of peyote rows added to the MRAW base. Due to the angle of the peaks (which is approx. 62° depending on the type of beads used, generally Delica or Aiko cylinder beads), the circumference of the beadwork will be more than twice as narrow than it initially was. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Something twinastic: Pinwheel cuff.

For their "Spin the World" March design contest, Preciosa Ornela sent me a selection of their Twin™ beads. Two types: transparent matted crystal and transparent matted grey Twin™ Seed beads and a green satin and opaque black Twin™ Pressed beads. Yep. Seed beads and pressed Twin beads. And the pressed one is actually not brand new, but I now understand better why some Twin beads seemed to suit a project better than another. Read on (and click on the images to see big photos).

Screenshot of Preciosa's presentation of the Twin beads

The first Twin beads we discovered several years back are what they call seed beads. They are, as far as I know, the first two-hole seed bead to hit the market and ever since, manufacturers rival with new ideas to make more multi-pierced beads. The seed bead Twin is oval, not always very consistent in shape, so a bit of culling is necessary. Overall, a very nice bead that offers plenty of design possibilities.
Clever new package

The pressed version has a horse-eye shape, thinner at the pierced ends and so offers more room for other beads between them. They are very consistent in size, resulting in a very even, flexible beaded fabric, at least in the samples I made with them. Beading with them is truly delightful. Twinastic!

The package these new Twin beads came in also deserve a thumbs up, because it is extremely practical and clever: a little plastic box with a cardboard back acting as a lid. The cardboard has to be slid open and can be reclosed. Much better than little bags to tear open.

Initially I planned to make Butterfly Ropes and Sera alla Scala necklaces, because these designs ask for them and I needed a cord for my reading glasses, and something for everyday. I started with the black pressed Twin beads, with pinch beads instead of firepolished beads. The cute Lady Bug look came as a nice surprise. I promise myself to make more of these, a green one for myself, and more for friends who fell in love with it too.

Lady Bug Butterfly Rope

Then, before I even got a chance to start a Sera alla Scala, my muse interfered and said no, no, no, make something new, something like "this". With "this", Eddie meant a small piece of dense beadwork with firepolished beads and tiny pearls - a test I made using Variation no. 9 of Diamond Weave in which I had substituted a number of parallel beads by Twin beads.

I listened to my muse, because he is a clever guy, and also because I wanted to see what it looks like to use only two-hole beads in place of all two parallel beads, so I replaced all the firepolished beads and pearls by Twin beads too. I used the satin green pressed Twin beads and tried a perfectly matching yellow gold metallic size 11/0 seed bead, also from Preciosa, but the size 11/0 did not cover the thread enough. I then tried with tiny white 2mm pearls. and they worked beautifully! However, I wanted a more subtle accent color, so I grabbed a tube of size 8 charlottes and that was exactly the look I hoped for.

Academy Pinwheel Cuff with Twin Pressed Beads - DW var 9

I am very happy with the result. The charlottes are a delight when worn. With their 'only one facet', not all showing to the front, it blings beautifully here and there when moving the wrist, as by surprise. Believe me, not one photo does these subtle tiny treasures justice, you need to experience them in real life. Slightly domed yet supple, the bracelet has a lovely repetitive motif that reminded me of little pinwheels and of the clothes of the honorable members of the Académie Française, hence the name Academy Pinwheel Cuff. Honni soit qui mal y pense.

Academy Pinwheel Cuff with Twin Pressed Beads - DW var 9

To better show the pretty pinwheel aspect and see if I could incorporate true 2mm firepolished beads, I made a second cuff with the Twin seed beads. I chose to make it a continuous band, with elastic at the edges. Stiff, yet extremely comfy to wear, I love it!

Pinwheel Cuff with Twin Seed Beads - DW var 9

Pinwheel Cuff with Twin Seed Beads - DW var 9

Because the result was so encouraging with the Twin seed beads, I had to try with other two-hole beads. Here again, I was happily surprised by the result when using Ios® beads by Puca. I used true 2mm firepolished as accent beads in the ivory version and 2mm matte hematite rounded cubes in the satin copper version and both worked very well. I find it so pretty that I decided to write a tutorial as soon as I have a moment (I am still working on the Farfalle stitch tutorial - soon finished).

Pinwheel Cuff with Ios® Beads - DW var 9

Pinwheel Cuff with Ios® Beads - DW var 9
I also tried this stitch with Rulla beads, which didn't work at all, and then my attention got back to the Sera alla Scala necklace I initially planned to make. 

Sera alla Scala in gold, red and black

And I made another Sera alla Scala rope with magic topaz and black pearls. 

Sera alla Scala ropes
I'm having fun, and I sing to myself. "so many beads, so little time"...

Thank you for visiting.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Farfalle Stitch

I received an envelop with a selection of Farfalle beads from Preciosa Ornella, to participate in a contest. They offer to send samples of a particular shaped bead to beaders who, if they accept, have 14 days to come up with something to participate in the contest. That means that I had until the 7th of March.

Tests with hexagon and
octagon stitches
Generally I push my creative brain as far as possible for a contest, which takes a lot of feeling thinking and testing, in other words: a lot of time, so it's needless to say that 14 days sounded extremely short to come up with something new. But I liked the idea of a short deadline somehow. Deadlines have something energizing. I had a last bead to add to my Toho Challenge piece (which took 2 months to complete), photograph it and then could play with the Farfalle beads.

Mini Menat
My initial plan was to make something floral with one of the many Diamond Weave variations explained in my book, because the Farfalle beads behaved very well in the Mini Menat design.

I think that they bring great depth and texture to beadwork. They can be a strong structural bead in DW, but my attempts at little daisies, with either hexagon and octagon stitch didn't work as I hoped. Adding little white pearls to hold the center of the units to prevent the farfalle from dancing didn't work well, because with their peanut-shape (or butterfly or bowtie shape, as their name suggests), they interlock naturally.

To stand tall, they should have no room at all in the center of the beaded units, otherwise they flip, which means only 4 beads per unit in DW and I didn't want to use them like that. I could try to find another math or magic for the daisies, but the "texture"aspect of the beads took me on another path.

I had been willing to create a pentagon stitch in DW since quite a while... pentagon stitch would, perhaps, offer a less symetric, but still structured design aspect. I looked at the 5-bead units as if one half was a basic unit and the other half a hexagon unit, and added single and double bridges (thread cover beads), and suddenly something amazing appeared: the beads formed a gazillion of little butterflies!

"Constellation" - farfalle stitch
Some farfalle beads still misbehave, but that's ok. The cuff has a wonderful, uneven texture, as if it had been "glass-smithed", yet a strong, regular woven structure. It has a nice weight and a pleasant, thick feel. With the 14kt gold-plated seed beads, the cuff looks like a starry night.

Starry night (without constellation)
 And because I love pearls, I added little 2mm white rounds to emphasize the starry night look without taking away interest from the woven structure. Now it looks a little bit like the Hydra constellation in a dark, starry sky, hence the name "Constellation" for this cuff.


Bats in the snow
And because I love Italy, and butterflies and because farfalle is the Italian translation for butterfly as well as for bowtie (which can also be "seen" in the structure), I can only call this stitch Farfalle stitch.

With Escher's drawings in mind, I started another cuff with black and white farfalle beads to better show the butterflies, but the texture of the beadwork looks like hail or snow - (I love it on its own) and the butterflies look more like little bats, and that, somehow, doesn't feel very compatible. So to show the little butterflies, I decided to make another cuff with Preciosa's beautiful Solgel seed beads, in a rainbow of colors, and alabaster white. 

I think that it is cute as a button:

"Butterfly rainbow" - farfalle stitch

 I love to see the two cuffs one beside the other, to show how two exactly the same pieces of work can have a different looks when different materials are used.

I started writing a tutorial for the butterfly bracelet.

Friday, February 24, 2017

A good design doesn't have to be complicated.

We all have a different way of looking at things due to our different backgrounds. Our preferences, age, education, environment, life... all these things influence our designs. With beads and thread, designers re-invent a use nobody thought of before, which is truly fascinating. Of course, it can happen that shaped beads are used in a similar manner by beaders and result in design collision. Which is never funny, but as we say, great minds think alike.

When I received the lovely Arkos beads by Puca to play with, they had already hit the market, in particular in Europe. So I looked a bit at what had already been done, and found many, many beautiful designs (there is so much talent out there, starting with Puca herself). But surprisingly not the simple one I had in mind. I might have missed it, so if you have made this design before, please let me know).

What I was very excited about is that it gave me the opportunity to finally use the camelia buttons I fell in love with some time ago. They are enamelled and heavy, which is good in this case, because they remain under the wrist and show the beautiful gold beads always on top. The gold finish being fragile, this will prevent them from rubbing on tables and desks.

I also like the contrast brought by the white pearls, which are added using Diamond Weave in variation 2 and the instructions on how to make a buttonhole. This is all explained in my book about Diamond Weave.

I really love the way the beads allow to create a scale pattern. I have this thing with gold fishes and dragon scales, you know, and I like a touch of deco and retro. It looks very beautiful on the wrist.

And you know what? It is so simple to make that I made a little diagram for you to play with yourself. You will probably need to adapt the bead count and clasp attachment, which is a bit tricky, but I am sure that you will succeed.

So voilà, here are the diagrammes for you to make your own De'Koi:

Have fun!
And if you want more designs by me, you can also visit my Etsy or Craftsy shops, 
or buy my book. Your support is much appreciated.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Free Diamond Weave Patterns!

My epicondylitis issues - which lasted during several months (because it is so easy to put the fault on fibromyalgia, my doctor didn't worry much about it) - made me stop beading with beads and thread, but my brain continued. I made a lot of graphs of what came up in my beady brain during and after the writing of my book Diamond Weave. Each time I looked at the white graph paper, I 'saw' lines. Curves. Flowers. Fabric. Animals and insects. Because I needed to make space in my head for other things, I created these graphs for others to play with.
Free patterns available on the Facebook book page

Most of these patterns are inspired by textiles. Woven textiles and printed textiles, like the beautiful repetitive patterns made in Japan. I love these very much for their simple elegance. The more I drew, the more came up. Eddie at its hyperst! He must have heard beaders asking for more patterns with seed beads only in magazines...

The result is a nice bundle of patterns. It took approx. 3 months to create them all. You can download them by clicking on the photo on the image on the right. I haven't uploaded all the patterns yet, but this might already keep you busy, or inspire you.

You can bead a sampler with plenty of different elements assembled the way you prefer - just like samplers made with cross-stitch. Both the book and these patterns are meant to boost your creativity!

"Celestial Cuff" - Variation 3 with thread cover beads.
I would have loved to bead all the patterns and write tutorials for them, a little bit like my talented friend Carol Dean Sharpe, who has taken flat peyote stitch to a level of great art with her color choice and beautiful designs. I created one bracelet, "Celestial Cuff" and one amulet bag, "Gate to Paradise" (inspired by the beautiful bronze doors of the Florence Baptistery created by Lorenzo Ghiberti) using some elements shown in these patterns. I also started a third piece, with beautiful antique beads I received from the talented German designer Kris Empting-Obenland, whose work is a delight for the eyes. Alas, my fibro got in the way, and my elbows got worse.

Amulet bag "Gate to Paradise" - Variation 9
It was quite frustrating not being very productive in 2016. Very little beadwork, nearly no patterns... Also, it appeared that working on the computer was actually worse than beading and I should have stopped drawing, writing and browsing. Fortunately, something strange happened: I had to take antibiotics (for other reasons), which appeared to help the tendons a real lot! The doctor still has no answer for that, but am very happy to feel better.

I will soon add more patterns to the Diamond Weave Facebook album There are still lots of graphs for you to discover in addition to what is there. I'm sure that you will find something that you like, and welcome photos of your beautiful work!

Flower sampler - Variation 9 with thread cover beads WIP

I stood away from the computer as much as possible and finished the Toho Challenge, which was great fun, but challening! I love challenges like this. It was very stimulating. Unfortunately, I am not allowed to show anything now. The great reveal will take place in Milwaukee during the Bead and Button Show. I can't wait to see other beaders' creations. Note that it will be the first time that one of my creations will be shown at Bead & Button Show, which thrills me.

And if you don't have the book Diamond Weave yet, I hope that you will buy it. It is a great book. You don't need to believe me: just read the reviews posted on Amazon!

Thank you for reading me and Happy Beading!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Bead & Jewellery Magazine Interview

Do you remember that Bead & Jewellery - which is a great UK & US beading magazine - published an interview with me back in April 2016?

I now may share the article with you! You can also download the 2 pdf's from this link (better resolution):

With many thanks to Katie Dean and Brita Moore!

I hope that you will enjoy the read!

Love to all!