Friday, May 13, 2022

Beadworkers Guild Challenge 2022 - Hollywood or Bollywood? Hollywood AND Bollywood!

Warning! Long blog post! Read it when you have a moment to relax, and laugh of my "tribulation  report" :D
Now that it has been revealed, I can finally talk about my make for the Beadworkers Guild yearly challenge. Clearly, not one of my BWG challenge beading and planning processes are the same. First time - for the Egypt themed Wesekh, I had everything I needed in my stash, and made the clasp myself. The next year, I made my Fantasy chess play so it was easy to choose the right colours, although "ivory" is not the same from one brand to the other, and the Czech shaped beads are called "champagne". Past year, I recycled a sculpted bird to create "Peace, astray" because the theme required us to recycle, and evidently this resulted in using beads from stash again.

The only things in common are long hours of work, and the fact that the view of my beading mat would result in some of my beading friends needing extra oxygen or maybe even defibrilation.

This year...

It doesn't show, but I somewhat succeeded to organize my capharnaum: I piled up 3 boards to 'contain' the colour studies and swatches, instead of everything on the same mat. It was a bit acrobatic, but in the end it paid: I needed less time to tidy things than for the previous projects. I nevertheless told my husbest that I need more space (I'll let you imagine his face, haha).

Decisions, decisions

Theme Interpretation
Never before did I hesitate so much in making decisions as for this challenge. I had my very own idea right from the start, but studied a bit before going for it.

Reading this article about the exceptional collection of costume jewellery created by Joseff of Hollywood for films and stars didn't help, but it was wonderful to see all the stuff made for Hollywood's big films and stars over the past century.

Bollywood films, which often show beautiful Kundan jewellery worn by gorgeous actresses in full wedding attire also didn't help. I love it. But didn't want to copy it. Reminiscent of Rajastani royalty, Kundan is the name for the ancient Indian art of stone setting. It dates back to the 3rd century. Isn't that humbling? The craftmanship is amazing, and so clever. Have a look when time allows:


The theme really had me think. I didn't want to make an Indian wedding regalia, which shouts "Maharani" to me; or a piece for a Queen (Victoria or another), it would become an historical/royal theme and, well... for Cleopatra I already have a Wesekh (made for the Egypt-themed challenge). 

What did help, was what Karen Gibson-Brown wrote in the May/June newsletter: "For this challenge will you choose to rub shoulders with ‘A listers’ on the red carpet of the Hollywood Oscars or will you be heading to the land of sumptuous silks, spices and Bollywood musicals or, will you choose a mix of East meets West ?"

Nowadays movie stars mostly wear jewellery lent by jewellers and sometimes it is absolutely fabulous, like the octopus hand adornment "Kraken"created by Turkish designer Bıçakçı, sported by Whoopi Goldberg at the oscars back in 2016. Inspired by Jules Verne's underwater fiction, it is not only fabulous, but also makes her look fabulous. Look how she shines! And obviously, she stole the show. 

Why do actresses wear jewellery? To be noticed. Why do Jewellers lend their jewellery? To be noticed!

As said, I had an idea already, and that was to make something an actress would want to wear on a red carpet at the Oscars or Golden Globes to stand out of the crowd - like Whoopi, or an Indian actress in Mumbai.

So I decided to create a shoulder adornment, an Epaulette

Something ravishingly lacy, layered. extravagant...

Thetis's Epaulette - BWG 2022 challenge "Hollywood or Bollywood"

Something that would drape from the shoulder down, like saris drape on one shoulder, with rich texture and depth.

Something that would gently dance while moving.
Something to go with my purple  dress...
Ear clip and ear hook
A matching ear hook (self-made hook) and an ear clip complete the set. The ear hook is for the left ear, and the epaulette is for the right shoulder (because it is made for a purple cross-over dress, which crosses right over left). Of course, I first made it all the wrong way because saris are mostly worn with the fabric draping down the left shoulder, so I did as much "frog stitching" as I did Saint-Petersburg stich! A real lot!

Making of this set
I had to push technique beyond boundaries and give in when the beads dictated their rules. It decided to live its own life early on, developing a unique "marine life" look. I love the wet sea weed look and the depth of the German cabochons, which is incredible.
Close-up of ear clip with the hook behind it

The colours

This year my muse litterally disappeared when it came to choosing colours, and I hesitated a long time between Hollywood (glamorous gold and diamonds) and Bollywood (bright colours). I don't dare to  sum it all up but I severely exploded the budget, because I bought a lot of beads and more beads after making swatches and changing my mind. Here again, the May/June Newsletter was helpful, although I didn't realize that back when I read it: in this newsletter the colours of BWG booth were announced, Fuchsia and Lime. After a serious fight with the muse, I decided to use these colours rather than the glamorous gold (which my muse still pesters me with, even now that the challenge is over) AND orange for marigold, because in India, you see these flowers everywhere.


Focal with lacy corrolla


It looks so simple but was hard. It needed a lot of thought, problem solving and adapting (letting go) process. That is what happens when you have an idea (the feathers) but beads want things differently. 


The feathers/sea weed needed 2,5mm fire polished beads! The 2mm and 3mm that I bought were useless because the feathers would curve in or out, resulting in a very unwelcome swirl. It  was hard to find those rare little glistening beauties in the right colours. The true2 has provoked less interest in the 2,5,mm and that is a pity, because they're really perfect. I found lovely colors at Jencel Beads, but she could not send them to Switzerland and I had to ask a friend in the UK if she'd agree to send the parcel to me as a gift.

Drop and fire polished beads addition
Technical struggles (self-challenges)
No matter how well I controlled my thread tension, the feathers still slightly turn in the direction of the first row. It is not obvious, but enough to not ignore, so I beaded in mirror half of the feathers.

"Thread management" needs improvement
To add so many beads around the cabochons to obtain a lacy corrolla without ruffles was also challenging. I wanted to add lots of beads, colour and layers. I used netting, Huichol, and had to come up with some sort of "back and forth lacy stitch" to get things straight (and started over many times). Diamond Weave was not part of the work this time, but knowing it helped quite a bit. 

First layers of lace wanting to ruffle, of course!

Colour placement
The German cabochon shows exactly the colors that I used - green, fuchsia, orange and orchid. It has amazing depth. Interestingly, it also had a blue sheen in it which disappeared once the stone was bezeled. I made  many colour swatches. It was not so much "which colour" anymore, but rather "where to place this and that one. It is impressive how some colors side by side can "kill" or turn other colours dull. 
Thread and weight hassle
The Twin beads and engraved pip beads not only had sharp holes, but their weight all together was quite impressive. Thread broke. Repairs were made. Solutions needed. I would have loved to make a more exuberant piece, with longer sea weed (which was planned), but I quickly wondered how on earth it would remain in place on a shoulder. The words "Nobody will want to wear this" resounded in my head (aka the muse shouting at me)...  Well, "earth" was the answer: I used "rare-earth" magnets, ultra-thin yet super strong discs. It will stay in place even on a jacket with these! But of course, when I received the first lot, they were too weak, and I had to place an order for stronger magnets, reason why my parcel left for the UK only on 21 March, very close to the deadline!!!
To add the leather to the back of the epaulette,
I used a sock to keep the weeds out of the way of the thread.

Extra challenge

I am not a Shibori silk person so this was a great occasion to play with the delightful yet dreaded (by me) fabric. It offers a perfect base, nothing too overwhelming or bright, yet soft, luxurious and delicate (in a fragile sense). You'd think that I could have been braver with this base. Well, initially I thought about embroidering a soft foam epaulette. It had to be easy on and off, which it wasn't, and comfy to wear. It did not offer the look I wanted either. So it is round and domed, backed with leather, and quite the perfect support for the sea weed that pulled so much on the threads. Also, I am very proud of the beaded edges.

Magnets before and after adding leather

The little details
Even though the piece seems relatively medium sized, to have everything in the right place, varying lengths of the sea weed, drops at different distances from the top, no ruffles, no gaps, etc. was a very complex designing experience. Even the joins between the pad and the weeds (the edging), necesary to keep everything in place and reduce thread sollicitation in the corrolla, are equidistanced. No threads showing. Etc. I started several things over because of just a tiny little detail. Because details matter for a challenge like this.

The photo above is terrible, but you can tell that I'm really happy with it. It has harmony, movement, depth, and smooth sophistication. And the perfect "wet look" thanks to the use of soft glistening drop beads. It is a real jewel in my books.

And it has options. See how the earring and hook look when worn. I love it so much. It can be worn without the epaulette too! And also the clip on one ear and the weed behind the other ear.

The idea of wearing only one earring with an asymetrical dress was French actress Audrey Tautoo's, here on the red carpet in Cannes (when presenting the film "Da Vinci Code"). It was, back then, also subject to loads of attention from the media and fashionistas.

Why the name "Thetis's Epaulette".

Goddess Thetis was a beautiful, shapeshifting sea nymph born by Doris, daughter of the ocean. Her name evokes a flurry of myths, legends and events which have entertained previous and present civilizations (through plays and books, notably the Iliad), and which continue to be a source of inspiration for the film industry in general. 

Thetis dipping her son Achilles in the Styx river

An oracle said that her son would surpass his father, so despite her kindness and great beauty, no other God wanted to marry her and she ended up marrying a human. At her marriage, the uninvited - hence upset - Eris, goddess of discord, brought a golden apple, engraved with the words "for the most beautiful". This resulted in the war of Troy where Thetis's son, Achilles, died from an arrow shot in his only weak spot, his heel, there where she had her fingers when dipping him in the magical waters of the Styx.


Thank you for reading me! Please tell me in the comments what you think about this project! I love to hear from you.



  1. Extraordinary! As always. You never fail to amaze me with your artistic talent. You must be pleased as punch (< does that translate?).

    1. Hi Kathy! Thank you for reading the article and for leaving such a nice compliment! I'm pleased to bits, indeed! :D Thank you!

  2. always big inspiration ,bravo ,Cath

    1. Aww, Romana! You're so inspirational too. Love that you appreciate this. And how cool to know that you read my blog! Thank you!

  3. Your epaulettes and earrings are absolutely beautiful and amazing. It was very interesting to read how you started with this overhelming bead board ;-) and you brainstorming step by step. I know that decisions to make upon colours is a very important step and not so easy....not to mention your ideas and how the beads behaved badly......not in the mood to fall from your shoulders softly... Cath, your beadwork is amazing and it is so nice and kind to share your creative process with us .Congrats to this absolutely gorgeous and unique jewellery from the north of Switzerland. ganz
    liebe Grüsse / meilleurs salutations

  4. Dear Cath
    Thank you for sharing your creative process of this extraordinary jewellery. The process is very creative....the pic of the overboarding bead board made me LOL. It is so true what you wrote about colours "influencing" and changing each other implemented side by side. Decisions is a dificult process........having a lot of beads at home and realizing that "something" is still missing. The most of us know how beads and beadwork can behave stubborn and not falling like they should. I like how you managed to get them in the "right way". Your epaulettes and earrings are absolutely crazy ( in Swissgerman, this adjective is very positive😍) and beautiful. I love them very much!!!

    1. Hello Mirjam! Vielen Dank!! Thank you very much for reading my post and reacting, twice :) It's lovely to have feedback on long posts like this seeing that they talk about a piece that took long, and writing took very long too. And how I can relate with the something still missing. ouch!! hahaha!


Your comments are welcome!