Like most ancient tales, the story of Helen is never told the same way twice. The most common threads in the myth are that Helen was a daughter of Zeus, married to Menelaus, and the reason for the Trojan War. Some versions of the story are romantic; seduced by Paris, she flees with him to Troy to start a new and happy life. In other, darker stories, she follows Paris to Troy under the influence of the goddess Aphrodite, and eventually returns to Sparta with Menelaus after murdering her second Trojan husband, Deiphobus.
Whether she was a villain or a heroine, Helen of Troy is still known as a great beauty - the face that launched a thousand ships. As a queen of many countries, she would likely have owned some of the most wonderful treasures to compliment her legendary good looks.
When I learned that the theme for the January Etsy BeadWeavers challenge was the ocean, the first thing that came to mind was red coral. The material has been stirring up more controversy than usual of late. CITES - the organization responsible for the care and catalogue of endangered species - is considering adding red coral to the list of taboo creatures. This would essentially put an end to the use of red coral in art and jewelry.
For my challenge entry, I wanted to create a piece in tribute to the fight to save this amazing species. Coral of all kinds are so important to ocean habitat, and protecting them is a worthy cause. As I considered how to incorporate seed bead ‘coral’ into a piece of jewelry, I had thoughts of exotic, Mediterranean necklaces. I decided that I would create something worthy of a Greek queen.
To represent red coral, I chose some ordinary opaque red 11/0 seed beads. To make the palette regal and luxurious, I added 8/0 seed beads and hex cuts in various jewel tones like sapphire and emerald. To add a touch of gold, I grabbed some sandy colored light amber seed beads. Although I was making a necklace for Helen of Troy, I also wanted it to look somewhat primitive - something you could find in a seaside stall in Ancient Greece. I hoped that this mixture would help create the rich elements of royal jewels, and the rustic look of archaic craftsmanship.
I sketched out an arrowhead shaped pattern for a bib necklace, to which I would add fringes of red coral branches. After creating the sketch, I decided to add a freeform pattern within it - a line of loops and whorls for the jewel toned beads to follow. As I stitched the necklace, the changes in bead sizes caused the beadwork to take on a new shape which had the rustic look that I had hoped for.
Once the base of the necklace was complete, I added the coral branches. Although this had been my main focus, when I stepped back to look at the finished piece, I realized that it had been better without the fringe. I don’t think that the shapes or the colors compliment each other. If I were to do it over again, I would replace the amber beads with blue, and stitch a structured base to allow the fringe to play on it’s own.
In the end, I decided not to include “Helen’s Treasure” in the EBW Challenge. And, since I’ve been wanting a bib necklace for myself, I put it straight into my jewelry box!
Copyright 2010 Inspirational Beading