Friday, July 19, 2013

"Yerrrrrrrrrrrr OUT!"

The voters have weighed in, and I'm out of the Battle of the Beadsmith competition. My piece fell to a spectacular entry and I wish Kris Empting-Obenland much luck with the remainder of the challenge.  Now I can sit back, relax, and enjoy the fun as I get back to work on smaller pieces.

Currently, I am busy working in black and white.  I made a number of cabs, large and small, for bead embroidery projects.  Once the beads are out, I thought I might as well do them all at once.

Here is what my worktable looks like today:

Originally, I had planned to use some super-sparkly AB Swarovski crystal bicones in these projects but I couldn't find them anywhere in my studio. It was driving me mad.  I gave up looking and finished the beading without the sparkles. It turns out I had over-organized my space. Last year, I decided it would be smart to create project boxes: cabs would be stored with the beads I had in mind for them, labeled, and stored where I could easily see the labels. One of those boxes held black and white cabs.... and those danged crystals! When I made the new black and white cabs shown above, I completely forgot about the existing box! What a knucklehead.

Thanks to a dear old friend, Paul Hallinger, I've now been diagnosed accurately with BOSS (Bead Over-organized Stress Syndrome) HA! :D

I hope to have several pairs of earrings ready to put in my Etsy shop by the end of the weekend.

 copyright 2013 Shibori Girl

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Masaya, Goddess of Volcanoes

The Battle of the Beadsmith 2013 is well underway; there is an eclectic mix of styles and skill sets represented so far. If you want to follow the action, click here. At the top of the page is a "photos" link which, if you click it, will take you to the albums of each battle.  This year, the public is welcome to vote. If you would like to vote, click the "files" link and look for the document outlining the steps.

Now that my battle is published, finally, I can show photos here.

"Masaya" (Goddess of Volcanoes)
 My piece began with the creation of the yellow polymer clay cabochons. When I use the "inside out bead" or "Natasha" bead technique, the final result is a random, mysterious surprise.  In this case, I cleaned up my work table after a particularly productive day and used the leftover clay scraps to make some cabs.  When I opened the resulting log of patterned clay, my reaction was, "OMG, I need to save these for my Battle piece!"  (The two on the bottom of the finished necklace.)

Rich, vibrant texture and color was a great starting point. When it came to design, there was a lot to consider. I wanted to add a new skill and the bead-embroidered collar on a brass blank was something I've been meaning to try for a couple of years. I stitched down row-after-row, layer-upon-layer to create the final richly textured collar.

As I began embellishing the two clay cabs, it became obvious that this necklace wanted DRAMA: color... sparkle... texture... the thing practically screamed, "Gimme!" When that section was complete, my plan was to connect it to the collar and call it done.  My dear friend, Mikkey, looked at it and told me it was "very nice, but it won't have a chance at winning... not big enough". Nice. NICE?!? I wasn't going for "nice" here. I wanted to do something epic, something that would rival anything I've done to date. Clearly, it was time to go back to the studio and try to make some more cabs - a difficult thing to do when using a scrap technique. I did my best and came up with some similar pieces which matched well.

In a previous post, I referenced how the individual components didn't fit together properly when they were ready for assembly. I love the final configuration. The first piece is now at the bottom, the new cabs seem to soar from the top and follow the lines of the wearer's collarbones perfectly. Normally, the brass collar blank would have enough tension in it to hold the necklace in place without a clasp. But the final piece was so heavy that it slid right off my neck! I added a pretty handmade clasp at the back with a gold-filled hook and it looks lovely from the back.

 When the neck piece was finished, I still had time left and a couple of the yellow cabs were yet unused.  I went ahead and made a matching cuff and hair accessory. The hair comb was another thing I've been meaning to try for a while now.

All told, a huge quantity of supplies and 250 hours of time were consumed in the process of creating this project.

There were some good lessons for me here:
  • Bigger can be better
  • Don't give up if the original plan goes awry
  • Test your limits. You don't know what you are capable of if you don't try.
I owe a huge debt of gratitude to a number of people who helped me get through this project:
  • Sherry Serafini and Heidi Kummli for the outstanding instructions for covering a brass collar in their book, The Art of Bead Embroidery
  • Steven Weiss, from The Beadsmith, for inviting me to participate in the contest
  • Mikkey Tarantino for her enthusiastic input and suggestions; I still have her footprints on my backside from when she convinced me to go huge!
  • Rebecca McElroy, Jack Jitsu, and Jenn Ryan of Dr Cowlick's Photography in Raleigh, NC for the gorgeous photos. You guys rock!
  • and (I saved the best for last) my darling Marble Man, who has had to listen to me talk about this thing for months and never asked me to stop. Thank you!!!
Now... what's next on my bead tray?

copyright 2013 Shibori Girl

Monday, May 20, 2013

Re-evaluate, Repurpose, Re-use

The time  is at hand: that moment when I look at my large inventory of completed works and conclude that some of those early pieces are never going to sell, no matter how many times I relist them on Etsy, or put them out at shows. They have undergone many photo upgrades and price reductions to make them enticing, but nothing is going to make them budge toward a new home.

There is nothing wrong with these early jewels; they are very simple in design and skill requirements - simple stringing really.  It's time to cut bait and reuse as many of the materials as I can in something more elaborate, new, and exciting.

The first piece to face rehab was this three-strand pearl and muscovite necklace made back in 2006.  I liked the pattern of the glittering plum purpley-brown muscovite beads at the center and vowed to keep that feature in the new version.  Lucky for me I have more of the muscovite in my bead stash! I made some pretty bead embroidered motifs to connect the pearl strands together, then added a fancy box clasp. I think it is a big improvement, fitting in with my "more is more" philosophy of late. You can see more information in the shop listing.

 Next up to face my nippers and deconstruction was this carnelian and hessonite garnet necklace, also from 2006.There was a lot about this one I wasn't happy with: a single strand of the red carnelian rounds which wasn't long enough to show at the front when worn, the thick cluster of strands of the brown and amber-colored garnets which was too long to hang asymmetrically as planned, etc.  I also had a LOT of extra carnelian beads, and by "a lot" I mean A. LOT.

So, how do I fix this one? That was my conundrum.

A big fan of chunky ethnic-style jewelry, I recently saw some pieces by the very talented Faria Siddiqui online. She combines big, bold stone beads with delicate bead embroidery to great effect. I raided my bead stash and found a large, deep red carnelian oval cabochon and some funky paua shell oval beads. My vision for a new and better piece took hold.  Add in some dyed blue agate rounds and gold-plated accent beads and what do you get? A big, beautiful, bold new statement necklace. I used up most of the carnelian rounds I had in stock (yay!) so I am happy with this necklace on a number of levels.

You can find the shop listing here.

I have a huge quantity of large stone beads leftover from those early days of jewelry making. At that time, my hand was in recovery and I didn't have the dexterity to use more delicate beads. As I regained strength, and my skill set expanded, I moved onto tinier and tinier beads, leaving the big ones to languish in their drawers.

Adding another layer to my current thought processes, my Battle of the Beadsmith 2013 piece is large and very intricate. It took nearly 250 hours of high-powered intensity beading to complete. This process was fairly ruinous to my hands and wrists, so I can see more pieces like the carnelian necklace in my near future. A little touch of bead embroidery and some big chunky beads to fill out the piece. Just until my hands settle down again.

Now which pieces want reworking?? Stay tuned...

copyright 2013 Shibori Girl

Thursday, May 16, 2013

I Dream of the Sea

I do dream of the sea... often. But in this post, I refer to my newly finished set of statement necklace, bracelet, and earrings. Several people have said it reminds them of something a mermaid might wear, hence the title.

"I Dream of the Sea"
The pieces came out spectacularly: full of texture, subtle color, and fluidity of design. I couldn't be happier with the final result.

The process was good for me, too, as it stretched my design limits. I originally planned to do a simple bead embroidered collar. MAYBE a pair of earrings to match. When I "finished" the embroidery on the collar, well, the beads were still out on the bead tray, and a good movie was streaming on Netflix, so I kept going. And going. Until I had 11 or 12 new, loose components made. As I finished each one, I laid it next to the collar so I could start the next.  When I looked down and saw what was happening to the collar layout, well, all I can say is "mind blown".

The next thing to do was decide just how over-the-top this piece would get. I played with the pieces like a puzzle, and came up with four viable possibilities.

As you can see by the photo at the top of this post, I went all-out with the bottom left design.



I love when a project becomes a lesson!  Next up: reworking some old necklaces to reflect my new design style. Stay tuned...

 copyright 2013 Shibori Girl

Friday, April 26, 2013

Color Play

I finished my Battle piece this week. Or, at least I THINK I finished it... some tweaking may be required between now and May 11th, which is when I scheduled a professional photo shoot to immortalize the piece.

Today I moved onto something that has languished in my project graveyard for at least a year. I've put off starting it because I want it to be a statement piece and up until now it seemed like it was going to be a "big project". That is, until I made my Battle piece, which is a heck of a lot bigger than anything I'd envision before!

I dug out the box of supplies I'd set aside and got to work.  So far, it is a symphony of subtle colors in bronze, gold, teal blue, and olive green. The focal bead is a glorious Labradorite teardrop cabochon which shimmers with all of those colors I mentioned.  I foiled the cab before glueing it down and those colors shoot right out of the stone now. Wow. 

My current plan is to flank the center stone with gray mother-of-pearl beads and seed beads. I also would like to incorporate some lovely blue and green dyed pearls a friend gifted to me last Fall.  When I laid the pearls down near the work this morning, I felt all sorts of warm sparkly feelings.  It's going to be a gorgeous collar when it's done.

Stay tuned...

copyright 2013 Shibori Girl

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Power of Alternative Thinking

It's now Day 18 into the Battle of The Beadsmith 2013 and things are happening.

 Before I began stitching beads down, I had a drawing showing the basic layout of the components and how they should fit together.  After I finished a few of the pieces, I laid them out according to the drawing; these didn't fit properly at all. When one edge lined up, corners splayed out and looked awkward. The bottom piece was HUGE, not proportional with the top. Well, isn't this SPECIAL? Nope.

I pouted about this new wrinkle in my plan as I played with the pieces like a jigsaw puzzle. I moved them around, turned them on edge, upside down, etc. With each new configuration, I took pictures so I could  compare them side-by-side. A new plan took shape. This new arrangement is even more interesting than the original! How about that?

While this competition pits artists against each other, I'm learning that the real battle is with myself. Through the execution of my piece I have gained flexibility in my thinking. Once  upon a time, I would start work and couldn't envision any other way of proceeding. If the plans went awry, the unfinished piece went straight into the Project Graveyard. That can't happen this time: I made a commitment to participate and I have a deadline. I HAD to make it work somehow. The result? I have a piece, my best to date, which has tested my endurance and skill. If you asked me a year ago if I thought I would make something this dramatic, I would have laughed.

Now I'm designing the next eye-popping piece in my head.

I am still not allowed to post pictures of the Battle piece, but here's a little taste of what is on my work tray:

Until next time...

 copyright 2013 Shibori Girl

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Take a Step Back and Breathe...

Today is Day 10 of the Battle of The Beadsmith. I've been bent over my table, nose in bead bowls, since April 1st: string a bead, stitch a bead... over-and-over.  With myopic vision, literally as well as figuratively, I work the tiniest details of my piece according to plan. Or so I thought.

This morning I realized one of the sections got away from me and developed a plan of its own. Large. Sparkly. Explosive color. Apparently my Bad Angel is perched on my shoulder again and she's whispering in my ear "More is more".  Well now, THAT wasn't what I had planned at all.  How to proceed?  I think I will listen to that naughty girl and expand the rest of the piece to match because that center piece is AWESOME! That's my trouble when I start with a plan: usually the piece takes a left turn halfway through and decides it wants to be something else entirely. Well, OK then. In the meantime, I need to step back and think for a day or so, to see if that's where I want to go with this project.

I wish I could post pictures; if I did you'd be as excited as I am!  In the meantime, I soldier on, bead-by-bead, consuming mass quantities of Fireline and sparkly goodness until the Big Reveal.

Stay tuned...

If you would like to follow the Battle on Facebook, let me know or contact The Beadsmith so we can add you to the group roster.

copyright 2013 Shibori Girl

Friday, April 05, 2013

Battle Ready and Rarin' To Go

Last summer I was honored to be asked to be a judge in the first Battle Of The Beadsmith, an international beading competition on Facebook. There were 80 worthy competitors and judging was challenging. Only one beader could win and sometimes the choice was painful. The winner wins nothing but bragging rights and the respect of beaders around the world. The winning piece is by Alla Maslennikova of Russia and is an amazing combination of design, beading skill and beauty.

2012 winner
This year, I was invited to be a competitor in The Battle Of The Beadsmith 2013. The event has expanded to include 192 beaders representing 40 countries. The competition is a series of tournament-styled mini-battles pitting two randomly selected artists against each other. Each pairing is judged and the winning piece moves onto the next round. At the end one piece, and its beader, is selected as the winner.

I was assigned my first round with Svetlana Hackl of Austria. Since the main purpose of this competition is to meet other beaders from around the world, I look forward to getting to know Svetlana.

I've been thinking about how to design my piece for months now. After seeing the intricacy of pieces from last year's competition I knew I would have to step far outside my comfort zone. I hope my entry will be a masterpiece, the culmination of all my experience, influenced by the works of other artists I admire. Unfortunately, I am not allowed to post any photos of my work-in-progress until the deadline of June 1st, but I will try to post regularly to describe how the piece is coming together.

Cross your fingers and wish me luck!

copyright 2013 Shibori Girl