Johnson Solids Project

Last year the wonderful geometric beader Diane Fitzgerald began a community project called ‘The Johnson Solids Project’. It was a call to beaders internationally to join in making the 92 Johnson Solids out of flat peyote shapes.

Hexagons and triangles

Johnson Solids are three-dimensional shapes assembled from triangles,
squares, pentagons, hexagons, octagons and decagons. You can read more about them here. As beaders we’re used to working with their cousins, the Platonic solids, and sometimes also the Archimedean solids, but expanding into the Johnson solids gives us some great new shapes to work with.

I wasn’t quick enough off the mark to get in on Diane’s first series, so when Sylvia Fairhurst and Patricia Verrier started a UK version I applied as quickly as I could, and was able to choose number 48, a ‘ Gyroelongated pentagonal birotunda‘. I chose this one because I wanted to challenge myself with one of the larger solids, but fancied trying one which resembled a shape I might want to remake – this one is kind of an egg shape. It’s also made of just triangles and pentagons and they’re two nice simple shapes to make in peyote.

As with the original project the organisers specified that we should all use a set delica colour (22L) which is a bronze lustre for our increases -this gave me a bit of a challenge because it didn’t really work with my normal bright palettes, but I had a lot of creams and shell colours out to work on my sea pieces last year, so pulled a pale peach and a cream to use for the rest of each of the two shapes I’d need to make, which looked lovely next to the bronze and got making.

Triangles in progress….

We all used Diane’s standard flat shapes (which are available from her Etsy shop, or if you can get it they are all found in her seminal book, Shaped Beadwork). My shape needed 40 triangles and 12 pentagons, and I chose to assemble the net as I worked (so each piece was attached in place before the next was made) – this was largely because I hate having stacks of components with loose threads waiting to be attached together, and it also helped me to ensure that I added the correct extra join beads – it’s much easier to spot errors in those if you’re joining as you go. If I’d been making this for myself I’d also have formed the overall shape as I worked, but because we wanted to have a collection of images of the flat nets before assembly, I made the net, which was actually nice as it gives a lovely view of the structure of the shape.

Johnson Solid No.48 – Net

So here it is – I finished it in plenty of time and sent it off to Sylvia last summer – the deadline was January 2021 so hopefully soon we’ll see the UK results. The last picture Sylvia posted of the collection so far looked amazing, and the images of the full string Diane has made of the US/International version are incredible.

If you’d like to learn more about the project there is a public Facebook group here.

Sunstar – Liberty Print

I was checking through my materials pack stock the other day and I remembered I had a spare Sunstar in yellow put aside for myself. The grey weather made me yearn for something cheerful and as it’s a lovely evening’s worth of beading (OK I do bead quite quickly and I’ve made a lot of these previously), I thought I’d curl up and make it.

Here it is – definitely cheerful!

Sunstar in Yellow Liberty Print

I still have some of these packs left, and some in different Liberty Print colourways in my Etsy Shop, and if you’d like to make your own with or without a pack the tutorial is here. If you’re not ready for florals yet this year, then I also have versions using my own hand painted cabochons and etched daggers here.

As with my packs I’ve used a combined brooch and pendant bail so I’ll be able to wear this as a brooch on more structured garments, or add a silk string to wear as a pendant and take my own bit of sunshine along with me. The bails are from the lovely Stitch N Craft beads – they’re included in my packs or you can of course buy direct from them. I use them on most big or heavy pendant pieces now as they actually give the firmest mount for a bail as well as the versatility of the brooch option.

I enjoyed making this so much I might steal another pack – I try to do as many colourways as I can mainly because I love putting the combinations together, but that does mean I’ve not always actually beaded every colourway (just spent ages trying different combinations of beads, backings and cabs). Which shall I pick…..?

Goldwork wire restock

Sorry it’s been a bit quiet here, but what with Christmas and the current lockdown we’ve been a bit busy. We’ve been in lockdown pretty much since October (with a couple of small gaps) and as schools have been closed in the UK since Christmas both of the boys are at home. Whilst they’re supplied with ‘remote learning’ by their lovely school, they both need extensive support with this (particularly the 7 year old) and as we’re both working, Mr Indecisive Beader and I are rather pushed for time, so blogging has had to take a back seat!

I have been able to do some beading though – since we can’t go out I can at least bead on the evenings I’m not having to work to make up for the time I’ve spent home schooling in the day. As I’ve mainly be working on my Beadworker’s Guild Challenge piece I don’t have anything I can show though……

I’ve also been able to keep my shop fully open this time round, which means lots of goldwork wires going out to locked down beaders and embroiderers around the UK and further afield, so I’ve had to restock and have snuck in some new colours of smooth purl. I’ve also introduced some more colour packs – just nice combos chosen by me as I think they work together, and these represent a discounted price on buying each colour separately.

Individual 1mm smooth purl packs in 2g increments are available here.

And the packs, which contain 2g each of 4 colours (8g total) are available here:

The new colours are Burnt Orange, Copper Peach, Matte Pink, Mid Turquoise, Golden Brown and Black, and I introduced Fuchsia, Matte Red, Pale Bronze, a greater selection of Golds, Parrot Green, Jade, Navy and Matte Silver to my original selection late last year. That makes 26 colours (I have my eye on a few more but I might stop at 30…..).

The new packs are Pretty in Pink, Fire, Heavy Metal and Ocean. Etsy only gives me room for 10, so the Ocean is not currently listed, so just give a yell if you are interested in that one and I can set up a custom listing. I’m also happy to do custom packs to suit your individual taste or projects, and can price for larger quantities if I have them available – just contact me here or through Etsy ‘contact seller’.

I also have some check purl ready to photograph so I’ll try and do something with that soon as it will be lovely for Squidy’s fins.

Green Squidy

Thank you to all of the beaders who purchased the limited edition Blue Squidy component packs. Sadly they are now all gone and it looks like I can’t get the cabs again, so they’re even more unique than promised!

Fret not though, for now we have new Green and everso slightly bigger Squidy – gorgeous dyed agate cabs (once again you can select your own cab from the list), a new colourway of lovely Hope Jacare hand dyed silk ribbons, and superlush lime lacquer Swarovski chaton eyes, with matching goldwork wires and backings, so he’ll be even livelier than my sample (which has blue zircon eyes). These cabs are a teeny bit wider round the middle than the original cabs (although they claim to be the same size) so you’ll also get a revised paper template so you don’t run out of space for the beads!

Green Component Pack

I had two cabs from the blue batch left which were probably not bought because they’re a bit paler than the rest so didn’t work as well with the strong blues. I’ve now paired them with new ribbons in softer colours, using a different set for each cab so these two colourways are genuinely unique and can’t be repeated. One makes the most of the lovely soft heather colours which Clare at Hope Jacre is so good at, and the other has mossier blues and greens with hints of peach and lilac. Yummy – please buy them before I’m tempted to steal them for myself!

As with the previous component packs these just include the hard to find elements – you’ll need to add your own beads. Have a look here to see the exact requirements for beads, you’re sure to have them in your stash already, and you only need a tiny quantity of each, and can mix and match as you please. You will also need to purchase the tutorial. If you’re after the wires needed, then you’ll be happy to know I now also sell these in my Etsy shop too!

Goldwork embroidery

The eagle eyed among you may have spotted that I’m now selling Goldwork wires in my Etsy shop. I have a variety of colours of 1mm smooth purl, 1mm and 1.25mm pearl purl and some new and very pretty 1.5mm spiral purl. They’re all lovely quality enamelled copper wires from India, where they’re used in beautiful embroidered fabrics, and I use them myself in my bead embroidery work by employing a mix of goldwork and bead embroidery techniques, mainly (but not always) working on hard felt. Here are some examples:

I’ve also put together some 20g mixed bargain packs which are ideal for having a play with these wires . They contain a mix of different complimentary colours and textures/types of smooth, check, spiral and cut purl, so you’ll be able to work them into a range of goldwork techniques and styles, and hopefully are very good value tasters. If you purchase one then please add ‘BLOG’ to the ‘comments to seller’ section when you checkout on Etsy and I’ll throw in a free length of pearl purl for you to say ‘thank you’ for reading my blog.

Where Corals Lie

This trio of boxes were inspired by a beautiful poem by Richard Garnett, set to song by Elgar in his song cycle ‘Sea Pictures’. They were my entry in the Previous Winners category of this year’s Beadworker’s Guild Annual Challenge. The theme this year was ‘Fantasy’ and I’m happy to say that they won their class.

When I get some time I’ll tell you more about how I made them, and hopefully show some better pictures (these were taken in a tearing hurry one morning just before lockdown as I rushed to get them packed and sent before it became impossible) but for now here is the artist’s statement I submitted with the work to the judges, along with the text of the poem. To really understand though how as a singer Elgar‘s wonderful song inspired me to bead them, I’d recommend listening to it here.

A rose gold ship in the shallows betwixt shore and deep is joined by almost invisible sirens, whilst alongside a whale comes up from the depths to greet her ethereal friends, and the coral filled shallows are dotted with hidden holes for a mermaid’s treasures.

Techniques – bead embroidery, peyote, goldwork embroidery.

Materials – Miyuki and Czech beads; Swarovski crystals and pearls; vintage, new & hand cut sequins; goldwork wires; found coral; acrylic rods; hard felt; bentwood boxes.

Where Corals Lie – Richard Garnett

The deeps have music soft and low

When winds awake the airy spry,

It lures me, lures me on to go

And see the land where corals lie.

The land, the land, where corals lie.

By mount and mead, by lawn and rill,

When night is deep, and moon is high,

That music seeks and finds me still,

And tells me where the corals lie.

And tells me where the corals lie.

Yes, press my eyelids close, ’tis well,

Yes, press my eyelids close, ’tis well,

But far the rapid fancies fly

To rolling worlds of wave and shell,

And all the land where corals lie.

Thy lips are like a sunset glow,

Thy smile is like a morning sky,

Yet leave me, leave me, let me go

And see the land where corals lie.

The land, the land, where corals lie.

Shrinking

I have a new addiction.  Don’t worry, it’s still bead related, I haven’t lost the plot.

A few months back Marcia DeCoster and other American beaders started sharing pictures of work they were doing with shrink plastic – specifically with Shrinkets, and this work was quite interesting.  Quite interesting because the Shrinkets brand is run by the lovely Julie Isaacs Haymaker, and she’s a shrink genius.  She’s a master of decoration and techniques, and on top of that has developed a series of moulds which can be used to shape the shrink whilst it’s hot – curving, doming, fluting and generally making what to me had been a flat medium more enticing. 

I watched this from afar, not quite able to justify the cost of shipping Julie’s mould sets from the US to the UK, and then a lovely thing happened.  Super bead emporium Stitch n Craft starting selling them – well it was fate, I had to have some.  I bought moulds and pre-cuts, joined Julie’s Shrinkets Facebook group and started reading and playing.

Initially I stuck to the methods I saw most in the group – coloured pencil ‘doodles’.  Then I started using more naturalistic techniques, shading and blending.  Each batch was different, but great fun to do.

Some point after batch 2 I realised I wasn’t going to be able to afford to only use Julie’s pre-cuts (plus Stitch and Craft kept selling out), so I bought a little Sizzix Sidekick die cutter, and scoured the internet for interesting Thinlits dies.  It’s quite tricky to get ones which are under the  6cm Sidekick plate size, but still big enough to be worth drawing on and shrinking, but I’ve got a decent selection now, so you can see more shapes from Batch 3 onwards.  And I bought more coloured pencils – you need a good quality wax based pencil and I’m getting on really well with a set from Faber Castell, and like a true shrink pro and stationary addict I made a sample sheet on paper and on shrink (also with test holes and measurements so I can get the sizing right):

Then came a much needed break away for our summer holidays – not the holidays we had planned, but under the current circumstances still lovely.  Coming back fresh, and finally getting the boys back to school and getting a little time to myself, I started trying some new techniques – helped by other group members who share so freely their knowledge.  I tried more abstract designs, worked with circles instead of flowers, made rings and little cups.


I had some acrylic inks, and had used them to create a mottled plain base colour which I then embellished after shrinking with embossing powders.  Then wondered if I could be more ‘painterly’ – grabbed a brush and painted, cut and shrank an abstract batch:

I played with some cheap alcohol inks – making blotchy designs and then augmenting them with pen and pencil doodles using a technique shared in the group by Kim van Antwerp (who sells amazing Shrinkets components here).

And that’s where I am now, and I think where I will stay for a bit.  I’ve made a lot of shrunk beads, and learnt a lot, but finally this week I got to the point where I wanted to bead something with them.  I bought an amazing petri resin cabochon from Designer Cabochons, and it arrived just as I shrank the first alcohol ink batch.  So I did another batch specifically to match the cab, then made them all into a bead embroidered pendant, and I love it. 

If you’d like to learn more about working with Shrinkets, please do look at Julie’s amazing website, or join the Facebook group here. And do ask me about the techniques and materials I’ve used in the comments.

Secret Beadalong Day 8

With just a few days left of International Beading week as well as looking after my Etsy shop with a lovely 20% discount on all tutorials, I’m as usual doing Jean Power’s Secret Beadalong – Day 8 joins the pairs of rivolis together but leaves some mysterious gaps? One more day to go and I’m starting to have an idea of where we’re going but still not sure!

If you’d like to join in it’s not too late – pop over to Jean’s website and sign up! If you just want to watch then you can see what we are all up to on her Secret Beadalong Facebook page.

Secret Beadalong Day 7

As usual for International Beading Week I’m doing Jean Power’s Secret Beadalong – Day 7 completes the skirt on the lovely Bermuda Blue dome crystal and adds a long strap. Lots and lots of herringbone in 15s…….

If you’d like to join in it’s not too late – pop over to Jean’s website and sign up! If you just want to watch then you can see what we are all up to on her Secret Beadalong Facebook page.

Secret Beadalong Day 6

As usual for International Beading Week I’m doing Jean Power’s Secret Beadalong – Day 6 is quite a substantial bead, adding a skirt to the domed stone’s bezel. I’m working in the stripes I used in the bezel so there is a lot of bead swapping but I love how it looks.

If you’d like to join in it’s not too late – pop over to Jean’s website and sign up! If you just want to watch then you can see what we are all up to on her Secret Beadalong Facebook page.