Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Creator’s Necklace

Egyptian Creator God Atum

A beader’s repertoire is constantly growing, changing, and evolving. We try new techniques and materials, new combinations of color and pattern, always learning something new about ourselves as we go. But when we do find a groove, or a set of methods that works for us, it’s bliss. That’s why it was incredibly satisfying to sit down to create a necklace for the Egyptian creator god, and know exactly where it would lead.

My latest subject was Atum, the first deity in the Egyptian pantheon. He created the sibling couple Shu and Tefnut, the gods of air and moisture, and was sometimes represented as a snake. He also had a menagerie of sacred animals, including the bull, lion, mongoose, lizard, and ape. I wanted to incorporate all of these traits into a single design, so I started by choosing the beads to see what my options were for construction. Then everything fell into place.

For the bull, I chose some simple natural bone rounds. For the mongoose, Rudraksha prayer beads. Green buri nuts would be perfect for the lizard, and large black druks for the ape. Finally, I selected the very few amber tortoiseshell druks in my stash to represent the lion. To back up these accents, I gathered up two shades of green 8/o seed beads for the waters of Nun (as well as the Nile) from which Atum emerged. Two misty shades of blue would go perfectly with the rest of the palette, and represent Shu and Tefnut.

Sacred Animals Bead Palette Atum, Shu, and Tefnut Bead Palette

I used the seed beads to create a snake-inspired twisted herringbone rope, then added a handful of each animal accent in a spray of fringe. At first I wasn’t sure exactly how to pattern the fringe, until I remembered how well Apep’s necklace turned out with stacks of beads at the ends. I used the bone beads in each strand, and finished them with a different accent, saving the smaller beads for the shorter strands. It was a pleasure to use a favorite design without hesitation, and it came out perfectly.

Atum the All Necklace

Do you have a favorite style or technique that you return to often?

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Bead Color Ideas: Job’s Tears

One of my favorite things about working with natural beads - apart from their sustainable qualities - is the way that they can blend into almost any style or color palette. Unless dyed, natural beads have wonderful neutral colors that go with anything, and they have a unique ability to work with modern, minimalist, and chic styles with the same ease as they do with other natural and organic elements.

This month I went on the hunt for the perfect bead colors to pair with Job’s tears. These pretty little beads are made from Lagrima de San Pedro seeds found in Ecuador, and look quite a bit like pussy willows, but without the fuzz. They are incredibly lightweight, making them perfect for fringe, which also allows them to make pretty music when they sway.

Tropical Honey Bead Palette Idea

I particularly like the soft pastel gray of Job’s tears, which often appears to be hiding another color beneath. To accentuate this mysterious natural finish, I started with some equally soft and misty colors, with a hint of sweetness. Tropical Honey includes wisteria lined crystal seed beads, and some dark transparent topaz.

Dancing Shoes Bead Palette Idea

To see how these natural beads would stand up to a more modern design, I combined two stark opaque colors that could be either chic or tribal, depending on the design. Shiny jet black and pepper red provide a great backdrop for the gray in Dancing Shoes. This palette really flatters the Job’s tears, while playing down their texture a bit.

Laughing Mermaid Bead Palette Idea

And finally, I couldn’t end without pairing beads from the rainforest with exciting tropical colors. The turquoise blue and opaque pale green seed beads are very lively, and allow the Job’s tears to remain cool, like a stretch of white sand. Perhaps we’ll call this palette Laughing Mermaid.

Do you like to combine natural beads with organic elements, or contrasting styles?

Copyright 2013 Inspirational Beading
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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Sun Disk Pendant

Throughout all the beading challenges I‘ve done, there have been many projects that required lots of planning and tweaking to get the right blend of inspiration and technique. Once in awhile, a project comes along that’s quite simply a no-brainer. The techniques needed to achieve a certain look are ready and waiting to be unleashed.

So it went with the latest Egyptian gods piece. I needed a way to capture the image of Akhenaten’s Aten - a sun disk with rays of light ending in hands. This is the way that the sun god was always depicted during his brief time as the one true god, with cupped hands shown in profile, sometimes holding an ankh for the king.

Akhenaten Worshiping Aten Aten the Sun Bead Palette

I didn’t have to look far for the perfect stitches to get this look. Circular brick stitch and branch fringe would do the trick. All I needed to decide on was a palette. I gathered up several shades of transparent and lined reds for the sun disk. For the necklace straps, I also added some bone white and black.

I think the simplicity of this necklace is perfect for the short lived cult of Aten. My only regret is that I didn’t have any golden yellow to use in place of the bone white, but I’m still really pleased with how the St. Petersburg chain straps turned out.

Aten the Sun Disk Pendant

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How to Cap and Finish Herringbone Ropes

When it comes to creating beadwork jewelry, it’s the little details that can make or break a piece. Finishing designs - adding fringe, clasps, and other components - is just as important as the main beadwork stitches, color choices, and focal elements that make up a whole piece.

Capped Herringbone Rope with Button Clasp

Recently a reader asked about my finishing technique for herringbone ropes. I use tubular herringbone for necklace and bracelets quite often, and with a metal-free approach, adding clasps requires a little extra stitching. This is the most common technique that I use to finish a rope with a smooth transition to a button or toggle clasp.

How to Cap a Herringbone Rope with a Round Bead

Druks are my favorite beads to use at the ends of a rope, but you can use other beads that match the rest of your design, so long as they can handle multiple thread passes. Freshwater pearls and crystals aren’t recommended, but just about anything else goes. You could also skip the picot embellishment and use disks or other bead shapes that cover the ends of the rope.

Start by weaving a dummy round at the end of your herringbone rope to connect the final stitches together - weave through the top row as usual, without picking up any beads. Exit from the top of the rope, and pick up 3 seed beads in the same size as your main beadwork. They can be matching, or use contrasting colors for extra interest.

How to Add Picots to Tubular Herringbone How to Embellish a Herringbone Rope

Stitch down through the next bead in the rope end, and pull snug to form a picot. Repeat all the way around the tube until each pair of herringbone columns is covered with a picot.

Stitch down about a centimeter into the rope and exit through a bead. Pull your thread snug, then needle into the rope, under the beadwork threads, and exit from the center of the tube. Do not pass through any beads, and be sure not to snag any threads with your needle.

How to Cap a Herringbone Rope How to Finish a Herringbone Rope How to Add a Clasp to Tubular Herringbone

Pick up your cap bead, and slide it down to the beadwork, testing the fit. It should not be small enough to slip inside the rope, and not so large that it doesn’t fit neatly into the picots.

Add your clasp beads as desired, and pass back through the cap bead, and into the center of the rope. Exit between two herringbone beads, a few rows down. Pull snug, then check the fit and length of your clasp to make sure you’re happy with the work before you continue.

Herringbone Rope Clasp Tutorial Secure a Clasp to Herringbone Rope How to Embellish Herringbone Rope

Stitch down through a few beads in one herringbone column to secure the thread. Stitch up through the following column, leaving a little space between your stitch and the end of the rope, then pull snug. Pass through the center of the rope and stitch around your clasp again to strengthen. Stitch down into the rope, and secure the thread within the herringbone rope again.

Stitch up through the beadwork, and exit from the picot ring at the end of the rope. Weave through the picots again with a dummy herringbone stitch to tighten them around your cap bead. Add a single seed bead between each picot if desired - this gives a pretty crown shape to the embellishment.

Crown Picot Embellishent Tutorial Adding a Cap Bead to Tubular Herringbone

When you’re happy with the cap, weave in your thread and trim, then embellish the other end of the rope.

Copyright 2013 Inspirational Beading
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Sunday, May 19, 2013

May Bead Stash Favorites

Most beaders have a go-to bead – a material that they can’t live without, and which usually defines their work. While these may be considered a "favorite", the beads that tickle our creative sides most can change with every new addition to the bead stash. The favorite du jour is a bead that makes us eager to sit down at the workbench, yearn to try new techniques, or sometimes we just want to horde them forever.

I want to share with you my top three favorite beads of the month. Every time I go into the cupboard to grab my bead tray, I think of them and look forward to finding just the right project to use them in.

Olive Green Czech Glass Seed Beads

Although I would say that 11/o seed beads are my standard fare, I still find that some new beads are always in my thoughts - at least until the next thing comes along. The rich colors and pretty finishes of seed beads are even more inspiring than the stitch possibilities. Right now my favorite seed beads are opaque olive green Czechs from Shipwreck Beads. Never mind that they’re on a hank, which makes all beads seem tastier; this color is both earthy and vibrant, and I can’t wait to see how it plays with other colors.

Vintage Czech Glass Egyptian Cabochons

If I didn’t have to save most of my bead budget to support my seed bead habit, I would probably spend an awful lot on unique glass accents. I picked up these amazing little vintage Egyptian cabochons on Artfire as a treat. Although the cobalt blue and cherry red are perfect for my favorite palettes, it was the bright green patina that really sealed the deal. Being so tiny at just 16mm, these cabs are ideal for bead embroidered pendants - I can add a lot more rounds of seed beads without the piece getting outrageously large.

Striped African Glass Trade Beads

Last but certainly not least, I’ve been hording two strands of striped glass trade beads from Happy Mango Beads for a couple of weeks. They are just so beady, I don’t even know where to begin. There’s always something irresistible about a striped seed bead, but the charming irregularity of these (along with the color and history) makes them almost too precious. I’ve been dying to make a new chevron collar with stripy bead accents – I’m just waiting for the magpie feeling to wear off so that I can bear to part with a few of these beads.

What kinds of beads have been calling to you lately?

Copyright 2013 Inspirational Beading
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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sacred Bull Necklace

It’s always gratifying when a design idea turns out the way we planned, but it’s an even rarer treat for a finished piece to greatly exceed our expectations. There was a rather long period when I thought that my latest Egyptian gods necklace was going to be a dud, and it wasn’t until the last minute that I realized it turned out perfectly.

My subject was Apis, the black bull of Memphis. Priests of the cult of Apis worshipped an actual bull, believed to be the reincarnation of the god Ptah. It was identified by several white markings, and treated like a king, including a lavish Egyptian burial.

Apis the Black Bull of Memphis Apis the Bull Bead Palette

I decided to blend a little from both gods, and included both black seed beads with beige, white, and real bone. For a hint of Ptah, I included some African trade beads in a dark lapis blue. Happily, I also had one more spiral bone pendant left, which would make the perfect focal for a bull necklace.

I was really eager to use the trade beads, but they aren’t as regular as new seed beads. I decided to go with spiral rope to give them a place to shine. The beadwork came out rather chunky thanks to the extra large beads. To mimic the white triangle on the forehead of the Apis bull, I switched from black and blue to white at the center of the rope. I added some natural bone heishi to replace the trade beads and provide a backdrop for the pendant.

Apis the Bull Spiral Necklace

I wasn’t at all thrilled with how the rope was looking at first, and I was sure that I had made a mistake. I was already committed, so I decided to see how the rope would turn out, and perhaps make another use for it. It wasn’t until everything was assembled that I realized how well the pattern and colors work together. The shock of white at the center of the necklace creates a great contrast.

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Book Spotlight: Mod Knots

Not your Grandmother’s pearls. Not your mother’s macramé. These are fitting descriptions for traditional mediums that have received a trendy new twist in recent years. Macramé in particular has come a long way from the crafts that made it famous. Though knotty owls and hemp jewelry are not forgotten, jewelry designers are finding some intriguing and beautiful ways to use macramé in modern accessories.

Mod Knotsprovides an excellent guide to making jewelry with macramé techniques, combining traditional knotting with modern materials. Beaders will love finding new ways to showcase their favorite gemstones and focal pieces in necklaces, bracelets and earrings. There are also plenty of trendy accessories to try, like guitar straps, handbags and headbands. All of the knotting and jewelry making basics are covered with full color photographs, so beginners can jump right in.

Bead lover and macramé expert Cathi Milligan combines some unexpected materials with macramé for many of the 25 projects in Mod Knots. Imagine your favorite knots done with colorful waxed linen, seed bead covered Soft Flex, and even sterling silver wire. Each project includes a detailed tools and materials list, plus a handy reference guide to the basic knots that will be used. Step by step photographs and clear instructions with tips guide readers through every project.

If you enjoy using big, chunky beads in your work, and want some fun new ways to make them shine, these macramé techniques might be just what you’re looking for!

Copyright 2013 Inspirational Beading
Cathi Milligan and North Light Books
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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Inspired Beader: Soutache by Magpie

Today my guest is Magdalena of Soutache by Magpie, a jewelry artist whose soutache designs are a delight of curves and curls. This unique technique combines beads with braided fibers in gorgeous colors and pleasing shapes.

Inspirational Beading: When did you first get started with jewelry design?

Magdalena: It was in May 2012. As a full time mom of my 2 years old daughter I found myself a bit bored and frustrated about wasting my artistic skills. I am qualified visual merchandiser and interior designer with huge passion for art of any kind. One day my uncle in Poland, whom always deeply believed in me has told me about something he just discovered - Soutache.

"You have time on your hands, don't waist it. Just try something new, you might like it." So I did.
I Googled "Soutache" and got inspiration kick, it was something I've never seen before. Then I made first tiny order of supplies, in case it wouldn't feel right for me. Most of the materials were new to me, I was so impressed with the Czech braids and it's beautiful, silky finish.

Inspirational Beading: Have you always been drawn to fiber work?

Magdalena: No, until the day I discovered it. My biggest passion is interior design and earlier I've never thought about making jewelry.

Inspirational Beading: Where do you look for inspiration?

Magdalena: Soutache technique is very organic in form, full of curves, very decorative so nature is a big influence. But most of the time I just pick up a few braids I like and start to match beads and findings with it.
I also look for the inspirations on the internet checking upcoming trends and spend time on Etsy.

Inspirational Beading: What's the most interesting or unique thing about your design process?

Magdalena: Soutache jewelry is unpredictable. It can be planned or drawn however I rarely do that, most of the time I just go with the flow and see what happens. Then I follow my first design if it has to be symmetric, like earrings, or when making more samples in different color palette. I'm now experimenting with braids itself, looking for new ways of use.

Inspirational Beading: Do you have a favorite color to work with?

It depends on my mood most of the time. One day I love orange so I am stuck to it for a while, then jumping to another one. Contrast and color blocking is my thing for sure, like in interior design - orange/pink, violet/yellow, black/red, etc.

I get bored easily rushing to try new combination. With time passing I am learning to follow trends. At the moment I am slowly adding some neon's and starting to love them.

Inspirational Beading: What are some of your favorite beads and embellishments?

Magdalena: Most of the beads I use are made of glass. Big matte glass pearls, shiny faceted, small irregular seed beads and tiny Toho one are the soutache must have. I also very often use the Howlite gemstone beads - they come in any color and I like the cracking patterns on them.

I've recently fallen in love with glass vintage buttons. They seem to have soul and some kind of story behind. Alloy bronze metal cord ends are my number one too, they are very versatile. I also discovered some handmade Eco-wooden round beads, very large and bold.

Inspirational Beading: What is the most exciting design in your shop right now? What makes it special?

Magdalena: My hand-wrapped bangles are most popular at the moment, few have been sold in the last couple of weeks. As opposed to the to classic Soutache designs where only the edge of the braid is shown, all the structure is exposed and shows its beauty. My experimenting continue by hand-wrapping PVC tube. Who knows what else I will find?

Inspirational Beading: Who do you hope to inspire with your work?

Magdalena: Inspiring is a big word but I do hope people would appreciate, love and wear handmade jewelry.
Still not many of them do realize a quality and beauty of pieces made by hands not machines. Often pieces are made just once for that one person, and that's what makes it so special. If that one person feel unique when wearing my jewelry then my mission is complete.

You can see more gorgeous soutache jewelry in Magdalena’s Etsy shop, Soutache by Magpie, and on Pinterest. To get the latest news and see new designs, check out Magpie on Twitter and Facebook.

Copyright 2013 Inspirational Beading and Magdalena (Magpie)
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