Wednesday, December 23, 2020

May you have a Merry Christmas anyway

I hoped to write more articles this year, but... you know, life...

However, for the end of this catastrophic year, I had to write the words that I heard in my head a couple of days ago and that is

"be merry anyway"

The above piece of advice has helped me to face the challenges life has thrown at me the past years of light sensitivty. To me, it says "don't let anyone or anything destroy your inner self".

It also says to me: "Don't let disease (fibro, Covid - whatever) spoil the good things in your life". This is very easy to say, and very hard to apply to every day life. And in addition, many of you have to face loss and sorrow, but if you read this post, it means that you are still there. It also means that you have shelter, food, contact through Internet technology. When I realized, yesterday, that it somehow is a miracle that I (and hubby) reached Christmas time, I cried with relief. 

Winter time is a pause, and in the
Spring Nature will wake up again.

The whole world is working hard to find solutions and I'm sure that they will be found. It is my hope that we will reach the end of this nightmare all together real soon. Despair is not an option, we need to remain positive.When the feeling of isolation hits hard, it might be helpful to think of it as an unusually long Winter. 

There are better days ahead. 

What also helps, is to join a ZOOM drop-in or group meeting. It is free. I assure you that stranded-mermaid-social-interaction-through-ZOOM is much more bearable than stranded-mermaid-loneliness

Also, where else would you hear about the existence of the MerB'ys calendar, a group of Mermen who proudly take the pose for a charity.

Just a wink. These Canadian guys do the
calendar to raise funds in favor of mental
illness patients.

I would like to thank the Beadworkers Guild trustees and other lovely people who regularly organize heart-warming, informal get-togethers. For me, it is the silver-lining of the pandemic, because the whole world got locked up like me, and found new ways to gather. Suddenly I wasn't lonely anymore! If you too want to join a meeting, send me a message and I will gladly help you.

I had my first Christmas "social get together"
in years and cannot express how
happy I am about that.


We, as humans, have amazing resilience. And just a bit of kindness can do wonders. 

My hubby said that this year we have to re-invent Christmas. He cheers up the cashiers, all masked up and having, before he does his magic, long sad faces, because most people are stressed and unpleasant or simply not talking at all. He says things like "I'm so grateful that I could find all this nice food! I feared that with this year's situation, tons of things would be missing. It must have been quite a tour de force to have it all available, allowing us to make something nice for our Christmas dinner..." And that makes them happy. He also is specially kind with all those waiting in line when waiting to pay for groceries, and gives them and others his best tips, like using a phone stylet instead of fingers to type a code on payment terminals, the door keys to touch the lift buttons... He has a spare mask in his pocket, in case he feels that one is not good anymore. 

Wearing a mask is like holding
an umbrella for someone else.

I am so grateful to have this man in my life.

People were surprised that he brought them home-made cookies. Although he refused to enter their apartments, he explained that making happy makes us happy too, so we decided to do something for those living nearby (in the same flat or send something by post). Guaranteed covid free! They liked that, and suddenly, we are some sort of adoptive family under the same roof. 



We also donated to the "Heart boxes", an org that collects pantry goods in favour of the poor, whose numbers are rising. I wish that I could do more than that, but alas. But I ordered little stylets to offer to many. Such a great yet cheap gift that fits in an envelop and hop, in the mail box.

I hope that, you too, have the chance to brighten somebody's day these days. 

Make Christmas special in a different way. 

Have a Merry Christmas anyway.

With all my love,

Friday, September 25, 2020

Zoom on a not so solid Solid...

Last year I worked on 2 major projects. One was my "Fantasy" chess play for the  2020 Beadworker's Guild Challenge, and the other one was this fun bauble, the Triskele Bauble. And Oh! some of my work got selected to appear at the 2019 Math & Fashion show in Linz. Perhaps I should enter this bauble in the 2021 show? I might need to find its exact name though... what solid could it be, hmmm?

It took a year to find out how to create this tantalizing Triskele bauble

You can order the Bridges Linz 2019
Math +Fasion Look Book here

So yes, I entered the 2019 Bridges Art & Math show with a jewelry set and  a necklace. 8 years separate the two pieces. Surprise, both were accepted. Some time after that, a beautiful Look Book was published, and I can't express how pleased I am to be included, together with many wonderful bead artists whom I appreciate tremendously, notably the CGB team and Kris Empting-Obenland.

I didn't expect to be selected because, admittedly, mathematics are not my "thing", but when I bead, I count, and measure lengths. Of a wrist or neck, or whatever object I wish to cover... I make forms. Shapes. Geometrics. And there is a math formula for everything, be it already known, or not yet. There must be one for the Triskele bauble.

The necklace, "Connectedness" (2009) was entirely made with multiples of 11 beads. Loops (and bridges) of 11, 22, 33 and 44 beads were added to form a web similar to the skirt of the maiden veil mushroom. It chants the beautiful bridges we beaders build thanks to the Internet, eg. computer technology, hence the wink to binary code and the world wide web.

Connectedness is part technique, part art and part poetry.


The set was composed of tetrahedron-shaped items. My "Open Hearts" chain (as a bracelet), Open Heart earings, a necklace called Chirimania - sliding cords with an Open heart pendant and an Open Heart bail folded inside out, and Mermaid Tail cord ends. (2018)

I was asked to send a photo with the jewelry worn, to give a sense of proportion.
Had I known that it would be included in their look book, I would have
goodied myself up a bit - but I didn't expect to be selected.


These semi-rigid shapes are all made in the same manner - Rick Racks - with the same beads, but either folded differently while beading, or started either with an even or an odd number of beads at the beginning. They are closed in the case of the cord ends to hide the knots in the cord. It still stuns me that it is possible to obtain so many different shapes by folding beadwork. Learn more about it in this article.


Playing with shapes is fun. However, it is not easy to talk about things without a name. In fact, I generally don't care much until I have to find a name. I care about the zigzagging, folding and now even more the morphing properties of the beadwork. For example, when I made my first Paradox Pendulum, in my books it was a folded octogon with what I call soft and strong increases, part of my Toho Challenge piece

After seeing the many hyperbolic plane funnies made by my talented CGB friends, I wonder if my pendulum is one... but I think that in CGB language it is an 8-pointed "All-wing" with triangle & hexagon increases. Paradox Pendulum it will remain, because I like poetry, and the shape can make one think of so many things,.

The Pendulum shown in the video is "New Year's Eve".
The white one above ornates the Christmas tree of my dad's girlfriend.


To talk about things and how they are made, math can be a great tool, but it can get difficult.  

See the names of the beautiful Beaded Johnson Solids project started by Diane Fitzgerald. Had you ever heard of a gyrate bidiminished rhombicosidodecahedron? Not me! But I loved making it, using triangles, squares, hexagons and decagons as per Diane's pattern, and I learned a lot. Diane invited us to give our shapes another name. Mine makes me think of Spiderman. But the most interesting aspect of the whole projet, in my books, was that the shapes don't need stuffing (they are self-supporting); and that the triangles very stubbornly raised atop the other shapes. I wonder if it is thanks to the triangles that the beaded shapes are semi-rigid, for they provoke good tension on the beaded shape.

The names for the Johnsons's solids must be the result of an intense decortication of elements in common and their opposites.

This "naming" of geometric shapes and beading them brings me back to the Contemporary Geometric Beadwork publications. 

Last week, I had the wonderful surprise to see my Kaleidocycle as front piece of the chapter about cycles included in the beautiful Pattern Book, published by Kate McKinnon. What an incredible honor. And it is a beautiful introduction.

I love the way Kate puts words on things. In the first books we discovered Wings and Horns and Elegant Guide Rounds. We have discovered the Exploding Round and then the Explodig PodCast.

You can only love to discover explicit names like "Bat Cycle" or "Butterfly Net". And what about "Hot Corners"? Not (yet) academic, but spot on, poetic and mysterious all at once. It will make poets, artists and geeks happy. One day it might we adopted so broadly that it will become academic.

My Jalisco Bangle, for which I shared
the instructions in CGB vol. I later
got the beautiful family name "All-Wing"
which has perpetual movement properties.

 Geometric peyote really can have one leg in geometrics and the other leg in physics (for its kinetic properties). It is very difficult to put the right name on beaded items, because if  beads are rigid, the obtained result isn't necessarily so "solid". But this is why it is soooooooo satisfying to play with said items.

This brings me to my Triskele Bauble and upcoming Zoom workshop. The Kaleidocycle and the Johnson Solid project have been major influences (bad and good) in the making of this new project.

My bauble is inspired by the  beautiful Triskele paper globes by Hattifant. I saw it many years ago and exactly as for the Kaleidocycle, I immediately had to make it with beads, but back then, I knew that I didn't have the skills (and also not so much time - I was working on my book about Diamond Weave). Early in 2019, I felt confident that I would be able to make it.

I've been working on prototypes without success during months. Admittedly more off than on, because of other priorities, like my chess play for the 2020 Beadworker's Guild Challenge, but efforts have not been spared. It felt like chewing it during months.

When seeing the Johnson Solids,  I understood that I had to change my approach for this bauble, and that was to not think "like paper" as I did for my Kaleidocycle 10 years ago , but only geometric peyote beadwork. And eureka, suddenly, things came together as I hoped. After several attempts and prototypes from which I learned a lot, I finally succeeded to obtain a lovely result.

Learn more about this workshop on my website, and prepare to be surprised how beadwork can have magic.

Now the question what kind of solid it is remains, but whatever the correct scientific name it may have, I call it a Triskele Bauble, to honor Hattifant, to express my love for the "morphing" possibilities of beadwork thanks to its solid yet not so solid properties, and because a Triskele is an antique symbol of kinetics. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Beadworker's Guild Challenge 2020: Fantasy

I wrote a very long article about my entry in the Beadworkers Guild 2020 Challenge before the pandemic breakout and when post-poning its publication, a Google "glitch" erased it. Argh! It was a long article with so many details and information and photos and corrections and updates, that it destroyed my writer's mojo for a while...

Fortunately, the very long wait for the judging to take place gave me enough time to write up something detailed again. I am crazy happy with my submission and was sitting on hot coals during months - most of you understand how hard it is to not be able to show what we are making with our beloved tiny little beads.

This year's Beadworker's Guild Challenge theme was


Neuschwanstein Castle, in Germany built for King
Ludwig II who loved legends and fairytales.
Walt Disney based its Magic Kingdom on it,
as well as Games of Thrones their Eyrie castle.
I love this castle.

Fortunately, I talked with our BWG newsletter editor Karen Gibson-Brown, because I couldn't help but thinking of fairy tales, in particular Disney.

My Tinkerbell. Entirely
made with "petals"

Disney's work is protected. Of course as long as one doesn't sell tutorials or multiple drawings of the Ice Queen made by the kids, there is no problem with a kid drawing Ice Queens (or Cinderellas). Or a beader beading Tinkerbell.

Karen clarified that it actually was quite a vast subject. After searching for more information about it, I came to find it analogous to "Mental Screen". Fantasy is what we can see in our head thanks to our imagination.

I find it fascinating how a fantasy creature can become so "real". It seems to me that with another pair of shoes or dress, or hair color, my Tink wouldn't be the "real" Tink anymore. Some things enter our mental screen and cannot be unseen anymore.

There are many myths and tales, but of course, for this challenge I had to come up with something "me", and make my submission worth the "previous winners" category. (You can read the article about my previous win with Nefertum's Wesekh here.)

I have too many flasks
of E.O. to fit in this box.
Early in 2019 I had ordered a 32-slot wooden box (for essential oils) for my husband's collection of tiny aquarium test bottles. Once inside, it was impossible to read the labels... The question "what to do with it now" got an unexpected answer from my muse, Eddie: "Put your chess play in it when you finish it"...

Huh ??? my chess play?! Naaah.... I counted the slots,  was stunned, but.... a project initiated in 2013 and quickly abandoned because time and motivation were never there at the same time?

Decisive move by Ron Weasley in Harry Potter and
the Philosopher's Stone. I love the Harry Potter Saga and I like chess.
Did you know that the modest yet determined and
brave pawn can become what ever it wants?

Eddie insisted: « Let's do this! Beading for the BWG challenge has to be challenging and you’ve always wanted to make it! Plus - oh la laaa - it is perfect for the Fantasy theme. » I had to agree. To play chess, one certainly needs to have serious mental screen "skills"; strategy asks for imagination. And each battle is a fantasy battle. I couldn't get it out of my head anymore. So I gave in, started it all over  and...


Friendly family picture

All on the "board" for a fantasy fight.

Inspiration and Techniques

Before I explain the making of this wonderful yet crazy project, I would like to credit Debra Schwartz (aka Datz Katz Designs) for her influence. She had made a pair of earrings called "Spinnerz" (published in Contemporary Geometric Beadwork vol. II) and during one of our messenger chats, she fantasized about all the other things she could make with her wings built on a CRAW core.

Photo of the Spinnerz in CGB vol. 2

When she mentioned a chess play, my muse immediately got hyperactive. Lots of ideas popped up. She showed me some sketches but I already envisioned the pieces my way, with shaped Czech beads to spice them up. We imagined making both half of a play with the wings based on the CRAW core for the core architecture. We both realized pretty quickly that we had way too many other things asking for attention. 6 years later, I asked Debra for her permission to make and enter my chess play in the BWG challenge and she kindly agreed. And even if it is different from what she envisioned, I absolutely want to credit and thank her for the inspiration and for letting me use her Spinnerz as the base for my chess play.

I think that it's good that I waited so long before really taking up the chess project. As a much better beader than in 2013, I enjoyed the actual beading and designing process much more, even if I encountered numerous difficulties not mentioned in this article! There are even things that I would not have been able to make back then, in particular little Olaf.

Although the pieces are based on an MRAW start with RAW and PRAW cores, it is a really cool geometric peyote exercise. I used petals (a 2-increase shape of my own find) for the gowns and the fish, and triangles - some equilateral, some elongated - and a variety of pear shapes for wings (as in my Tiny Tulip  and Diane Fitzgerald's Radiance pendant.

I used a square base for the pawns, a pentagon base for the towers, knights and bishops, and a hexagon base for the queens and the kings.

One discarded pawn displaying
typical medieval retaining walls

My first pieces were the bishop and the pawn. The latter remained on my designing board during months. I made many, many versions of the pawn before finding the right head for it. Interestingly, all versions had something "medieval" about them.

Only after finding what I would do for the king's head, I knew what to do for the pawns, and that was adding a crystal chaton in a gold-plated setting. I also added crystal chatons to the queen's gown and as eyes of two knights.

I gave the bishops and kings a cape, which can either float or be wrapped around their body. I like to shape them to give each piece a different look.

I imagine kings and counselors standing on a hill,  looking
far in the distance, with their capes floating in the wind.

While making the kings, I couldn't resist thinking
of the Argonath in the Lord of the Rings.
I love the Lord of the Rings saga.


Delicas 11° in two different opaque light cream, matte 24Kt gold-plated and matte and shiny black;
Miyuki opaque size 15° black and egg shell;
Miyuki opaque bugle beads size 3, black and ivory luster;
Toho Starlight in sizes 15° and 11° and 8°;
Cube beads for the base of each piece;
Pearls ranging from 2mm to 10mm are present on and/or in most pieces;
KO black and KO gold thread - the gold conferes an antique ivory look to the "whites";
Glass cabs and felted pads.

I also used Gumdrop beads for the bishops' mitres, Tile beads as drawbridges for the towers, Superduo beads as drawstrings on the ladies' gowns, Spike beads for the knights' unicorns and large Magatama beads for the serpent's scales. Most of the cream beads are called champagne in catalogues.

A large pearl at the top of the towers mimices the dome of an old astronomy observatory. It shows better in the video.

Same shape, different fold

The most special aspect of the play is that the black pieces can be seen through, not the whites. They are rigourously the same, with exactly the same number of beads, but their wings are joined the opposite way. This shows best in the pawns. 

 As a result, they are very similar, yet all different.

The black pieces have rigorously the same bead count as their white counterpart, but the wings are joined differently. 



For the gowns of the queens, I pushed the white petals half inside out and left the black fully concave.

The 4 knights are unicorns, with heads based on my Tiny Tulip design, shaped and embellished differently, resulting in small (serpent), medium (bird), large (fish) and extra-large (bat) heads.

The bat and the bird can spread their wings and the serpent can move its head and adopt quite a variety of postures. They fit well in the box (but they seem to be willing to jump out of it at any time).
The fish can only move its tail and fins a little bit. Or rather, I can move them...

Ever since I saw the Harry Potter chess battle, my mental screen sees things 😃. 

I've always wanted to make a "fins over head" fish as, for example, in Bernini's fountain (The Triton Fountain in Rome, below left) and some Asian koi sculptures. When my fish Olaf (below right) started sleeping in this  position, it became a must.

The bird is inspired by my zebra finches, in particular Figaro, the fastest flyer of the flock, very hard to catch. It doesn't show in the photo below, but he is very chatty too.

Figaro, Fluff de Puff, and Fiora

The Board

I dare to think that the "board" is ubercool, for it matches any home decor, thanks to the "whites" being the color of the furniture, here a recycled mango wood table.

The squares are all made with a full octogon Diamond Weave stitch with thread cover beads, resulting in a traditional clover motif. I wanted something reminding of ancient floor tiles. The ivory border is made with the same stitch. It has a lot in common with the Chinese coin motif stitch. 

I made lots of different squares before I chose the above tile. When I realized that it would become a fractal eg. mini boards forming one large board, I knew that it was the right one.

 A lot of thread was used...

Beyond Beading

The bottom of each finished piece is filled with a glass cabochon, to which a self-adhesive felted pad was added.

Husbest sanded the box for me (I am really bad with wood - if there is one splinter, I will "find" it...), but I smeared it twice with natural antiquaire's wax, which smells amazing, to protect the wood, and give it a nice, natural color. I dislike varnish, because it turns yellow over time, which doesn't happen with real wax.

A bronze closure and embellishments were then added to the box, including 4 legs which look like animal feet. I tried a variety of legs, and made photos before choosing the preferred ones. Here again, to not screw the whole thing up, the help of the husbest was a must, and much appreciated.

Finally, I hand-sew a little poach for the board to which I added 2 cord ends inspired by the pawn heads.

And before sending it all to the UK, I had fun playing with it...

... and I made a video to show everything better. A dear friend edited it for me and added some music composed by him, for free and I hereby thank him VERY much for his time and generosity!

 I hope that you will find it inspiring.
Thank you very much for reading this far, watching and commenting!!