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. 


  1. How fun to be able to share your knowledge with a sincerely interested artist. I love the piece you made in honor of the day too, and serendipity! A blessing that you found each other. I love that skull too, and look forward to seeing what you will do with it. I have a little muskrat skull I am looking forward to working with myself. Hugs Cath!

    1. It was really nice to talk beads with a person in real life, it energized me and to say the truth, when she left, I missed her immediately. I think that I've found another soul sister. It feels wonderful.
      How nice that you have a little muskrat skull to embellish. I'm looking forward to seeing what you'll do.


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