Sunday, August 31, 2014

Freeform beadwork

I finished my first freeform beadwork recently. I am happy with it, but even though there are no set rules I am not sure I am working with the right process. Somehow I didn't use much peyote stitch, instead it is more square stitch and right angle weave. I mixed some pearls, blue apatite and labradorite beads in with the blue iris and matte black iris seed beads. I enjoyed the random progression through the bracelet, and have already begun another one in brighter blues and greens which has more of a layered look. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Snowdrops and Ivy

Last weekend I went to Bead Fest Philadelphia. I had not been to a bead show since Tuscon in 2006. I was excited to be able to do some bead buying in person since the bead shopping around here is limited to chain craft stores. Judging from the crowds at the seed bead bead booths I wasn't the only one who felt that way. They had more than enough beads at the show that I easily blew my budget. Even though it's only a fraction of the mega show held in Arizona every February, I was still overwhelmed by all the beads. I bought a few tubes of colors I thought I needed and some other random treasure. There were lots of stone beads and I bought a few strands even though I have no thoughts yet on how I will use them. 
The winners of the Bead Star competition were on display, and one of my floral necklaces, Late Winter Garden, won second place in the glass bead category. 

There were a lot of beautiful necklaces there. I really liked a couple in the Emerging Artists category. It was great to see my necklace next to the other winning designs, and nice to live so close to the show!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Summer necklace

The results for the Fashion Colorworks contest have been posted and my necklace was chosen as second place winner! I am very happy with that result. I worked on this necklace during the winter months, and the bright colors were a welcome relief from the snow covered view outside my window. I made quite a few flowers in various shades of orchid and cayenne, and bought as many colors that might have been sand as I could find. 
The flowers I didn't use are all together in a bowl on my work table.

This is one of my favorite contests and I enjoyed using colors that I wouldn't normally pick. All of the entries are displayed on the My Lovely Beads website. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Battle of the Beadsmith

I kept a few guidelines in my mind as I worked on this piece- a comment from an interview with Kris Empting-Obenland about having stayed within her comfort zone when choosing colors to work in, Steven's sage words to "just make something pretty," and my own idea that the entries for this competition are all over the top in terms of the amount of work and the complexities of the designs. Originally I thought I should attempt to make something that had red carpet glamour. Unfortunately, that isn't my style. Having gathered lots of shiny baubles and gemstones I spent many directionless days wrapping cabs and playing with crystals with very little satisfaction. Finally I gave up and started using my favorite colors from the beads that I had picked out to correspond to the Pantone colors of the year. Since I have been on a flower trend, and there was a time limitation, I decided to eliminate the learning curve and make what I was comfortable with.
 I am drawn to using primarily seed beads without a fabric base in my work. I had a difficult time finding some of the colors I needed in Miyuki beads since both local bead stores closed in April, so I used some Toho beads I had in my stash. I was able to convince my daughter to pose for the photos, and she gave me her top model poses and faces, somewhat obscured by foliage and flowers.
The pictures of the designs are being posted on Facebook this week, and the work very impressive. I am excited to be included in this group of talented bead artists.

Monday, March 31, 2014


Spring rains have finally replaced the snow and the first greens are slowly appearing. My bead board is still covered in orchid, cayenne and sand. This month I have been exploring the colors available in Czech seed beads and I discovered the best opaque orchid yet, and decided that as for reds, the Czech colors are the most vibrant. There just is no replacing the qualities of glass mixed with gold by using dyes. Next to the Czech beads the Japanese reds look very weak. I also have been using the pearl cream and eggshell colors over the vanilla or ivory available in Japanese. The Preciosa beads also seem to have larger center holes than some of the Miyuki do which was a surprise. I have finished an entry for the My Lovely Beads contest in the first triad, now I am moving towards working in the blue, freesia, and hemlock color scheme. The flowers should be up soon, and that palette has good spring colors.
Only one month until the closing date for the Fire Mountain contest, and with the start of April I also get to begin my beading for The Battle of the Beadsmith.  I have been paired against Glenda MacNaughton from Australia. Her Etsy shop, Daxbeadartpatterns is filled with some beautiful designs, and I can't wait to see her Battle entry. I am not sure what I am making, but I have some ideas to try. It should be a busy month.

Thursday, February 27, 2014


Snow and more snow and still more snow to come. One of the few good things about it is that the light is much brighter all around with so much snow on the ground. I have started buying cut flowers just because there is so little color anywhere outside. 
Between the weather and mercury retrograde it has been a long month during which I have made little progress. I did finish a necklace with hellebores and snowdrops that I am considering entering into the Bead and Button contest, but the $50 entry fee is a bit of a deterrent. Completing the project in a timely manner satisfies the challenge of my being able to enter, should I decide to.

 I have spent most of my bead time these past few weeks trying to figure out what beads work for the radiant orchid, sand and cayenne triad. My local bead store decided to go out of business (too much snow and ice) so I have been buying more beads than usual before they are gone. My latest choice for radiant orchid is the Miyuki duracoat semi frost s/l lilac 11-4426 and semi frost s/l lavender 11-4248 mixed with some Toho gilt lined lavender opal, all size 11. I have made sample flowers with every shade of pink to purple in French, Japanese and Czech beads I have been able to find and depending on the light any one of them could be a good match, but few match each other. My preferred size beads are the 15's, and I haven't had much luck finding a bright orchid in them. The s/l mulberry 1655 is close, but not very radiant. I don't know why I am so obsessed with this, but my choice for African violet last year was so different from what other people had I am determined to get it right. I made a set of color swatches by saving screen shots of the Pantone colors on my iPod, then I printed it out on high quality. The radiant orchid was the same as my swatch from Lowes, so I am hoping all the other colors translated as well it did. I have been matching them to beads as well, and they aren't the colors I would have thought. I just bought many more beads that might be sand, but I haven't made samples yet. 

Friday, January 31, 2014

Snowdrop, the 2nd time around

This is my new and improved version of a snowdrop, made into a piece of wearable art.
I used a 6 3/4 inch stainless steel stick pin for the base form. Bending the pin was hard because I needed it to be a certain shape, determined by the beadwork. I discarded three attempts before I got it right. Another change from the original involved using size 11 rounds for the flower instead of delicas. This gave the flower a fuller look, and it held the shape better. I had many more greens to choose from, so I tried to match the colors of the leaves by using an iridescent matte green while keeping the other greens the same as the original. Overall, I was happy with the pin and may try other bulbs in the future.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Fire Mountain Gems seed bead contest

Fire Mountain Gems has been one of my favorite places to buy beads since I discovered them in the early 1990's. I remember driving by the warehouse on trip out west and wishing they weren't mail order only. 
Last year, for the first time, I entered their seed bead contest. The piece I submitted was a sunflower necklace that featured a black nephrite cabochon as it's center. I had wrapped the cab with some iridescent purple 3-cut beads, but didn't have any ideas for it beyond that. My husband kept insisting that I had said I wanted to use it for the middle of a sunflower, but I had no recollection of that. Eventually, after so many suggestions, my brain began working toward that end. I started by making separate petals, then used twin beads to represent seeds while also connecting the petals to the center. The peyote stitch rope is made using Preciosa copper lined lime beads. Using the Miyuki triangle beads added texture to the leaves and support for the flower. I added the periwinkle flowers to include purple. Most of the pieces I made last spring employed the My Lovely Beads Pantone triad of African Violet, Tender Shoots and Lemon Zest, a limited but challenging decision. 
I was told once by a friend from Venezuela that planting sunflowers outside your front door will bring prosperity. For the last few years I have, and it may not of helped overmuch, but it hasn't hurt either. 
My sunflower necklace was chosen as a finalist in the contest this year, and with that as motivation, I have already begun next years entry. The winning pieces are all awesome, and can be viewed on the Fire Mountain Gems Seed Bead contest 2013 page.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Radiant orchid and seed bead colors

Pantone's color of the year is one of my favorite colors, but it isn't the easiest to find in beads. Finding the exact shade of pink/purple/fuchsia that is Radiant Orchid was made a lot easier by comparing the beads to a paint sample card from Lowe's. To Pantone's credit, the color is exactly the same as the color on the orchid flower that recently bloomed on a plant I bought last year. (Just Add Ice orchid- I followed the directions to give it three ice cubes a week and it is the first one I have ever had that bloomed again!)
I narrowed my bead choices to two types. The color difference between the Japanese beads and French beads is enormous, yet both seemed like they could be radiant orchid. Once I poured out the colors and placed the trays next to my swatch it was clear the Japanese beads were a better match. 
In direct sunlight the opalescence of the French beads seemed to catch the color, but it wasn't as obvious in artificial light.
In any light the Japanese beads were a lot closer in color. The size 15 beads shown here are all Miyuki, number 352 is Fuchsia lined aqua luster and the transparent bead is number 1620, Semi-frost transparent lavender. The silver lined bead is number F23.
I made some sample flowers out of the various beads, and the thread color made a big difference with the French beads. I used both rose and light purple Nymo thread and the resulting flowers were totally different.
The triad for the My Lovely Beads contest also includes cayenne red and sand, so now I need to find beads that match those colors as well. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Beading Inspirations

Cold, snowy winter days. Spring flowers.
That's the connection my mind has made this past week and I have been working on a few projects incorporating types of late winter flowers with various twig and berry type accents. I have a friend who makes flower arrangements all times of the year. In the summer it's easy, but I am always impressed by the way she can gather the components when everything is dormant. When I told her that, she said "there's always something." It is with this in mind that I have been able to find inspiration from the bleak landscape that has turned into a winter scene. 
My palette has been greens and white, with some blue, dark purple and gray mixed in. These colors are turning into snowdrops, ivy, glory of the snow, hellebore, and berries. To brighten things up I am using yellow to make aconites. 
I have pictures I took last spring to work from but they are not my only references. Beautiful Bulbous Plants, by John Weathers is A Project Gutenberg e-book with 33 full color plates by Mrs. Philip Hensley that I came across while searching for pictures of snowdrops. I have some old books with color plates of botanical drawings, but it was nice to find a modern one, complete with gardening information. I buy flower books with color plates I see in used book stores, and also cross stitch books with color diagrams (usually printed for sale in the United Kingdom.) I also like field guides and have many different flower ones. I don't think you can ever have too many books, and with another snow storm predicted for tomorrow I think I might be beading from pictures a lot.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Snowdrops are one of my favorite spring flowers. They are the first bulbs to bloom, sometimes in January while there is still snow on the ground. Seeing a patch of them flowering outside the front door always brightens my day. A while ago I made a beaded snowdrop flower, complete with plant and bulb, in the style of a botanical drawing. I wasn't very happy with the flower itself and I never did anything with it. Recently I was asked to make a pin out of it, and I decided to make the whole thing over. Originally I had used delica beads, but I wanted to see if the round beads looked better. I made some samples out of Japanese and French beads to see which was best for the petals. 

I decided to use both, one for the center and the other for the petals. they are different shades of white, and I am hoping to give the flower some dimension. Of course, I can never make just one flower, so now I am thinking I will make a necklace too, maybe with some ivy leaves and berries for accent. Time to order more beads! Really what I need to do is figure out how to attach the plant to a pin base, right now I am thinking a stick pin would work. The original was made around a piece of sterling wire and it turned black, so that's out. Oh well, I will just make more flowers until the beads and findings I ordered arrive and figure it out then.