This year’s International Beading Week runs from 23rd – 31st July. I’ll be doing my usual duty as Beadworker’s Guild social media helper as an admin on the IBW page and group, and also doing my bit for beaders everywhere by offering a massive 20% off all of the tutorials in my Etsy shop, including my brand new ‘Ice and a Slice’. No code needed, they’re all reduced and ready to go right here!
As an IBW Ambassador I’ve also donated a free fringe earring chart which you can download from my website here, or from the Beadworker’s Guild site where there are lots more free patterns from a whole range of lovely designers here.
Did you know that I actually sell some of my finished beadwork and embroideries?
I have a little shop on the UK site Folksy with earrings, a couple of necklaces and some of my embroidered mini hoops – you can view it here. The range is deliberately small to keep it fresh and current, but I also run commissioned work through Folksy, so if you see something you like there or on my social media do feel free to contact me and request custom colours etc.
Folksy is a bit like Etsy but much smaller. They’re deliberately fussier about handmade only and it’s a sensible, easy to browse size as it is just for UK makers (although I can of course still ship worldwide from there). Best of all it has a small, caring, supportive and innovative management team and has a wonderful community of friendly makers which I love. That community take an active interest in promoting the site, spotting non-handmade shops and supporting other sellers with advice and help through the forums and Facebook group. The management team support makers with advice and help, and consult about improvements – Doug the IT guy is legend, and Camilla and her colleagues are experienced makers themselves who constantly feed us useful advice about selling and running our handmade businesses. They actively curate really lovely gift guides, themes of the day and highlight interesting pieces, and run a fascinating blog with ‘makers of the week’ (I was one back in 2014 – read the posts here – very out of date but fun to look back at where I came from).
I’ve been selling there for more years than I care to mention and it’s a lovely place to sell and shop for beautiful handmade items. I’ll probably always have my Etsy shop for supplies and tutorials but it’s very hard to be seen as a maker rather than a supplier there as it’s simply so huge and geographically diverse, so I find Folksy suits me really well for finished items.
Pop over and have a look at my works there using the link below, and do take time to browse some of the other lovely shops too. I’ve listed a few of my favourites below:
Susie West – stunning ‘travel posters’ – we have three of these already and are trying to collect one for everywhere we have lived (we have a little way to go!).
Claire Gent – amazing aluminium and silver jewellery. I’ve lusted after Claire’s work for years!
Holme & Moss – I’ve got one of their classic hairbands in my basket at the moment.
Eynonymous – I have a beautiful yellow silk hairband from Eddie which I wear a lot – she designs and prints beautiful textiles.
I’m often told ‘your colours are marvellous’ or words to that effect, and that’s lovely to hear as colour is incredibly important to me and I do work hard at it! I do have some specific methods I use to really get my colours to work whilst focussing on my designs, and I thought you’d like to hear a bit about my main one.
I’m sure many of you will have noticed that over the last few years you’ll see a run of pieces working through a similar colour theme being posted in sequence and may have wondered what I’m up to. This is a deliberate working method for me now – I focus on a set of colours for several months at a time, work them out, play with different combinations of finish, different juxtapositions, and get really comfortable with them. This saves time pulling and tidying beads, and allows me to focus on new designs without the endless distraction of playing with new colours and rooting around in drawers and drawers of beads.
This has become a standard working method for me of late and it started a while back when I used to pull sets of beads to take on holiday or for a large creative project. I pull a range of beads, threads, sequins, crystals, focals and basic supplies such as threads, findings and backing/foundation in a new set of colours. So for the seed beads that means a set of anything from three to many more colours in as many sizes as I have, plus corresponding delicas, then as standard I usually dig out whatever I have in 3mm and 4mm rounds, fire polisheds and bicones which gives me a really versatile working base. I’ll always add a complimentary metallic colour with matching findings, and then it’s time to rifle through my crystals, feature beads and growing collection of sequins. I’ll add drops (very useful) and then chuck in whatever I have in the right colours in shaped beads. If I have shrinkets or cabochons already made I’ll pull those out too or I’ll make more as I need them.
I’ll usually do some bead embroidery in one of these runs, but will grab foundation and backing as I need it, but I’ll get out the right shades of beading thread so I’m never tempted to use something less than ideal. These days I usually work with purls as well, so I’ll add smooth, pearl and textured purls, and if I’m also thinking of a hand embroidered piece, some linen, silk, tulle or organza and of course, stranded cottons, perles and treasured texture packs and hand dyed threads.
I can end up with anything from a small A5 box or bag to a big stack of A4 boxes, depending on how deep I want to go and how indecisive I’m feeling. So right now, I’ve deliberately picked a smaller set to work with, just beads, purls to complement a set of rainbow coated steel findings I want to work with. So far that’s just turned up one piece using a cab and set of shrink pieces I forgot I had made, but I’ve only been at it for a week. I’m already slightly off track as I didn’t use the rainbow findings yet but I’m quite happy nonetheless as can amble along trying out some ideas I have floating around without needing to root around for beads constantly. And when this is worked through, I’ll tidy them away and pull a new set.
My previous set was a box of beads the same size (A5) plus a similar size box of purls, findings and sequins and a bag of threads and fabrics – that lasted several months and resulted in these beaded pieces:
That set was inspired by a lovely yarn pack from Wild Floss Embroidery – ‘Sherbert Pastel’ colours on a dark teal base. I did an embroidered piece first, adding hand dyed threads from Hope Jacare and beads in similar colours, so once I’d completed the embroidery hoop I had a set of beads ready to go and had got the hang of how to use these colours – which aren’t my usual combo at all. As well as some pieces for myself (including the big embroidery hoop) some of the earrings are now available for sale in my Folksy Shop.
Looking back you’ll be able to see some other series of works which came about in a similar way – first some works which started with my big Egyptian piece for a Beadworker’s Guild Challenge a few years back and spawned several pieces:
And then my very long (over 6 month) pastel based marine inspired pieces – again coming from a winning Beadworker’s Guild Challenge piece ‘Where Corals Lie’.
As you know I’ve donated a chart which you can find on the IBW site or in my Free Charts section, and from 25th July until 1st August I will be offering 20% off all tutorials in my Etsy shop (no code needed, tutorials only, please note that this doesn’t start until tomorrow – 24th July).
I should say now that we’ll be taking a much needed holiday though for bulk of the week, so I’ll be closing my shops for everything other than those digital download tutorials (which run happily without me needing to post stuff), but fret not, the beads, cabochons, crystals and goldwork wires will be back on August 9th. During that time I will still be beading, as it’s time for Jean Power’s Secret Beadalong, so watch my social media to see how I’m getting on.
Whilst you’re there, why not join the IBW Facebook group, or have a look at the IBW Facebook Page and the lovely Beadworker’s Guild Instagram account and see what we’ve been working so hard on behind the scenes. This year we have a theme for International Beading Week (IBW) to celebrate the positive mental health impacts that beading has with the tagline: ‘HANGING IN THERE’. We will have daily prompts to help you get involved on social media and throughout the week we will be sharing tips, ideas, free patterns and beaders’ stories on our channels – and we would love to read your stories too!
Please help us spread the word about beading by tagging the Beadworkers Guild in all of your social media posts and use the hashtag #beadingweek.
As part of the IBW social media team for several years it’s lovely to be able to show my support as a designer as well by becoming an IBW Ambassador. Beading along with others is such a pleasure, whether it’s done in person or remotely, and I’m looking forward to seeing the results all of the events and activities the IBW/Beadworker’s Guild team work so hard behind the scenes to prepare for you every year. This year’s International Beading Week runs from July 24th – August 1st, and as well as working away with my lovely colleagues on the Guild’s Social Media team I’ll of course be beading along with the wonderful annual Jean Power Summer Secret Beadalong.
This piece can be adapted to change the length, colours or overall use but at its’ core is the 12 colour spectrum of the IBW logo and a rainbow. The rainbow has come to mean a lot symbolically in the UK over the last year or so, so seemed an appropriate choice, although making curves out of things which want to run straight was a challenge – quite a few rejected versions here:
It’s also worth saying that this chart was created with Beadographer, which is a wonderful new chart/design tool. Prior to starting using this I’d never really got on with charted designs because I found the planning process inhibiting creatively. However I’m sure you can see from my recent work that Beadographer has allowed me to overcome that bias and I’m now embracing charting with the tool on my laptop (or even better on my iPad with an Apple Pencil) as an alternative way of creating with beads, so thank you to Leah and William for a super, very easy to use creative tool.
I’m please to be able to introduce ‘Back to Nature’, my entry in the ‘Previous Winner’s class of the Beadworkers Guild Annual Challenge 2020/21, and very happy to say that once again, I won.
The theme this year was ‘Save the Planet – Bead it Don’t Bin It’ and this was my Artist’s statement (which we send with our entries and is the only context we can supply to the judges):
‘Inspired by the layers and structure of soil profiles, this box explores the idea of nature taking over again, burying mankind’s waste and rubbish under layers of soil, moss and lichens. Salvaged circuit boards surrounded by the digital bytes of beadwoven delicas, are slowly being covered by layers of soil – beads, threads, pearls, reclaimed watch parts and recycled sequins. On the surface, embroidered and beaded mosses are cut through by Kintsugi repairs of bent and damaged scraps of leftover goldwork wires. Bursting down into the soil below, the gold brings new life and destroys what we’ve left behind. ‘
That’s the ‘public’ face of the piece, in reality it’s simply a really lovely embroidered fully hand made box, made by me over several months using only items from my stash, waste from my shop and household computer and packaging waste, and just about every technique I knew, could learn or could make up. I’ll try and get a blog post together in the next couple of days to tell you a little more here about how it came about.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last summer I made a series of sea creatures – beginning with a bead embroidered pink and yellow jellyfish done as a stitch and material sampler. She was a bit big and slightly clumsy, so she was called Big Jelly.
The next piece was Squidy, who mixes bead embroidery, bead weaving and goldwork embroidery techniques. I published Squidy as a tutorial last year, and also sell component packs for him (which include Hope Jacare‘s lovely ribbons and the other non-beady elements). You can read about him here.
Finally I made Jelly, a simplified piece using just one goldwork and a few bead embroidery stitches – simplified because I knew she was going to go off to the Beadworkers Guild as a journal tutorial. So that meant I had to keep her under wraps for quite a long time!
Last week the Journal was published and here she is. She looks lovely on the cover, particularly in her second colourway of blues and fuchsia, and it’s great to make a contribution to the Guild and to one of the most popular beadworking publications.
If you’re interested in the Journal it forms part of the membership benefits of joining the Guild, and is available internationally.
Squidy is my younger son’s favourite cuddly toy – the one he needs at night and takes with him on long car journeys, so when an oval cabochon and some rumpled hand dyed silk ribbons came together to make a squid pendant, what on earth else could I possibly call it?
Squidy uses a variety of bead embroidery, beadweaving and goldwork embroidery techniques, including back stitch, bezelling using circular peyote, seeding, right angle weave bezelling, goldwork and beaded edging to make a statement pendant, brooch or even a beautiful ornament. I’ve written him up as a detailed tutorial because frankly he seemed too much fun not to share, and it’s now available in my Etsy shop.
He’s not horrifically tricky if you’re patient, he’d suit intermediate bead weavers or bead embroiderers, or experienced embroiderers looking to learn some beadweaving techniques. Everything is stepped out in the tutorial, and there is a full techniques section with hints and tips which should set you up well to try out some of these techniques on your own designs.
The materials are probably slightly tricky to get hold of, so I’ve put together some component packs – you can select your own individual cabochon, and the packs also include the goldwork wires, hand dyed ribbons (from HopeJacre designs), Swarovski chatons, beading foundation (Nicole’s Bead Backing), and Ultrasuede. These packs don’t include beads as you need such tiny quantities it’s not worth me weighing them and packing them up – you can just add them in from your own stash and make a unique piece. They’re available in my Etsy shop (which has 10% off until the end of December 2019).
I really enjoyed making Squidy, and he now also has some other sea creature friends which I can’t tell you about just yet – I’m working my way through lots of lovely ribbons to make as many tentacled creatures as I can and it’s really, really fun!
Earlier this year I was lucky enough to spend a weekend with the Beadworker’s Guild for their Great British Bead Show. I had a wonderful time, finally getting to meet people I’ve known electronically for a while, and getting to know even more lovely beaders. I took two one day classes, the first with Jean Power, which I’ll post about shortly, and the second with Heather Kingsley Heath, in which I made her beautiful Fantasie pendant.
I’ve admired Heather’s work for a while and own several of her books and patterns, and this was a lovely chance to work with her in person. This is a great piece to bead, and I was especially pleased with my colour choices – the new Swarovski Crystal Delite finish in Burgundy, and the dark and light blue shades of Swarovski Iridescent Pearls. I matched them with my usual Miyuki Duracoat silver, some matte dark blue (2075) and my new favourite Fuchsia Luster (1465L). I chose the pearls to match the blue sparkles from the Delite finish, and I must say I’m really pleased with the combination.
I finished the pendant quite quickly after the class, and couldn’t even wait long enough to finish the complimentary beaded chain to wear it, so it’s currently hanging from my usual hand dyed silk cord. I hope to make the chain one day, but for now I do find the cords easy to wear as I can adjust easily from my ideal longer length back to a shorter hang to accomodate my horrible work lanyard and ID badge! This is a common colour palette for me to wear, so it’s had lots of use already.
If you’d like to learn more about the Great British Bead Show and the Beadworker’s Guild you can visit our website. And to learn more about Heather’s beautiful and inspiring work, visit her ‘Heatherworks‘ sites. I bought some more patterns from her in class, so you can expect to see some more of her designs here soon!