Sunday, August 12, 2012

Bead Embroidery - From Concept to Adornment

I consider beadwork to be one of my most creative outlets.  I love coming up with design concepts and bringing each piece to life.  I'm often asked about the process in which they are created and I can give a very general answer explaining how the beads are hand embroidered to the backing material and then it's turned into wearable art.  People inspect it and sometimes can't wrap their brain around how it all comes together.  This time around, I thought I'd take some pictures during the process so I could show the steps that are taken as a piece is created.   I hope you enjoy the ride....  :)

1.) The first step, for me, is always one of the most enjoyable.  It's when I come up with the concept for my design.  This piece is going to be a beaded cuff bracelet.  I like to use graph paper to mark my design and lay out the beads in different formations.  Sometimes I take pictures of different patterns and then refer back to them to choose my favorite.  This time around I chose a gorgeous pillow square labradorite cabochon as my focal and some gorgeous stones in aqua and olive green.

2.) Cuff bracelets can be either free form where they are pliable/flexible in their final wearable state or they have a metal blank inside them so they hold their shape.  I've done both and enjoy the process of both.  This time around I chose to do the metal blank.  First I measured the cuff and then drew my dimensions out on my base fabric, a stiff black felt.

3.) I mark my center point and then each inch along the length just to keep some sense of symmetry as I go.  ;)

4.) Here's a closeup of the labradorite cab.  The flash is absolutely stunning!

5. & 6.) Unlike a bead, a cabochon has no hole in it.  It can't be sewn on so it has to be attached to the project.  I use a needle to spread some E6000 glue on the back of my cab and then press it firmly in place.  This allows it to hold on its own before I bezel it with beads.

7.) Here's an array of possible beads to use within my chosen color palette.  I won't use all of them, but it's nice to see everything laid out side by side.  I LOVE these ceramic artist palette's.  The white background makes the colors pop! 

8. & 9.) Shot 8 is the very first step of creating the bezel around the center stone.  Depending on the thickness of the stone it will determine how many times I have to go around, basically stacking the beads and building rows until the cab is enclosed on all sides, securing it to the cuff.  The second shot is what the cab looks like after the beads curve up around the sides. 

10.)  Now we're getting down to business.  After the center cab is attached I can just go to town, attaching the larger surrounding stones first and then beading around them with seed beads.

11. & 12.) These shots shows masking tape in place.  I like to use this technique sometimes when I am going for a really straight edge.  It helps when cuffs are going to have the metal blank inside to ensure a generally consistent width throughout.  I've also found that having the tape wrapped around the edges allows for a nice grip on my piece as I work. 

13.) This is the piece when the majority of the beading has been completed and it's been cut out.  At this point, I like to leave some length on the ends just to give some wiggle room for when the beadwork is being attached to the metal blank.  It's coming along nicely, don't you think?  I was going for an art deco style and I think I captured it.  :)

14.) Now I'm ready to choose my backing fabric.  People use all kinds of things: leather, denim, recycled fabric, suede, etc.  I like to use ultra-suede.  It comes in a gorgeous array of colors, is fairly inexpensive and feels smooth and velvety when being worn against the skin.  It can look very cool to line your cuff with a contrasting color (a'la Louboutin).  I wanted something coordinating this time.   I had several options to choose from as you see the colors beneath the beadwork.

15.) My two favorites were the vibrant turquoise and this olivey-taupey green.  Though I love the way the turquoise pops, I'm going for something a little more subtle this time around so I went with the olive.

16. - 18.) Next step is laying the beadwork on the ultra-suede, tracing it and then cutting it out.

 19.) This next step is very important and I find it to be much easier to accomplish before any beadwork has been attached.  The metal cuffs come very round but whose wrist looks like that??  So, I have to pinch them slightly to make them more oblong, a football, if you will.  This is more wrist-like.  You can see what a difference it makes when they are side by side.

20.) Now it's time to start putting all the pieces together.  I know many books and people who say to use glue to attach but I've found that a heavy-duty double stick tape does an amazing job.  It holds the piece in place and doesn't have that stinky glue smell.  Also, it doesn't bleed through your fabric, only to leave you with a goopy mess on a piece you've spent hours creating.  (GRRR!)

21.)  First I lay a piece of double-stick tape along the inner side of my cuff....

22. & 23.) Then I start at the center and attach the ultra-suede so it lines the inside.

24.)  Next I lay a strip of double-stick tape along the top side of the metal blank.  Starting in the center, I lay my beadwork down and press it firmly against the cuff to adhere it.

25.) Extra strips can be added to make sure each end is held in place.  Shot 25 allows you to see how everything is all sandwiched together before the final end of beadwork is stuck down.

 26.)  Now it's the first time you actually see the piece taking shape.  It also allows you to even up any edges so trim, trim, trim your heart out, just make sure to leave about an eighth of an inch beyond the metal cuff to allow for edging to be attached.

27. & 28.) Here you can see the edging starting to happen.  I chose silver beads for around the length and indigo blue around the main center focal area.  As you can see in shot 27, each bead is lovingly sewn through the backing and the beadwork, attaching them one at a time.  

 29. & 30) And... voile.  The final piece close-up.  I'm so happy with the way it turned out and I hope the recipient is pleased with it, too.  :)

So, there you have it.  The whole beady process.  Was it what you thought it would be?  Easier?  More complicated?  I'm curious to hear what people think.  I know it's a common opinion in the art world that people don't understand the work that can go into a piece.  The planning, the construction, the hours spent perfecting that vision born first in your mind.  I've had people think I was nuts when I told them pricing on pieces before but I hope something like this will help to explain why handmade beadwork isn't cheap.  We do what we do because we love it, not because we want to sell to the claire's fans of the world.  Handmade beadwork is an artform and I'm glad to have the opportunity to share my love it with you all.

Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rollin' in the Deep :)

My 3 year old daughter, Lauren, loves Adele!  She goes around the house all the time singing Rollin' in the Deep.  Here she is giving her own rendition of the song.... with a whollllle lotta feeling. ;>

Her other favorite singer is Sia.  Video soon to come. ;)
Thanks for watching!


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Please VOTE JOY to Make a Difference!

Hello all,
The Joyful Heart Foundation needs your help and it only takes a moment!  They are in the running for an amazing $500,000 grant from Chase Community Giving.   
The mission of the Joyful Heart Foundation is to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, and to shed light into the darkness that surrounds these issues.

Are you a survivor?  Perhaps a close family member, friend, classmate, co-worker, etc. With the statistics as disturbing as they are, chances are we have each been touched in some way by family or sexual violence.

From founder/president, Mariska Hargitay  "...In creating programs for our participants, we quickly realized that everyone heals differently. We choose treatments that engage the mind, body and spirit for healing purposes and try to discover the strategies that work for each individual. We provide an extensive network of resources and our own groundbreaking retreats that complement traditional counseling and therapy.

When people are abused and assaulted, it is like the doors to their souls slam shut. The goal of Joyful Heart is to let the light, and the life, back in--to banish the darkness and let the healing begin."

Currently, Joyful Heart is in 5th place.  An image showing the official standings as of the morning of May 1, 2011 can be seen below.   PLEASE take a moment to vote.   You are allowed to vote ONE TIME for up to 10 different charities if you'd like.  You'll be making a difference in the lives of so many women who take part in their wonderful wellness retreats where they provide support and encouragement.

To learn more about the Chase Community Giving Grants and how you can help, please visit the link below.

Thank you for your time and consideration.  A few moments of your time could provide an amazing amount of support to survivors who are on their road to recovery.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Etsy Beadweavers Spring Swap

I was excited to take part in the recent Spring Swap event that took place amongst the Etsy Beadweavers.  This year there were 24 participants who created beautiful pieces based on the preferred styles and colors of their recipients.  My recipient was Kinga Nichols of White Rabbit Jewels.  If you visit her etsy shop, you will see that Kinga is extremely talented and has created some stunning pieces herself, so I sure had my work cut out for me! ;) 

   The specs I was given for her desired piece gave me enough direction and yet left it open for me to interpret it as I wanted.
I knew that her favorite colors were orange & green.  I knew that she liked funky, modern things and that she loved cuff bracelets.  So, I jumped at the chance to create her a piece that I am happy to say she was thrilled with.   Here is the lovely Kinga modelling her new cuff. ;)

Here is the swap piece that was created for me by Maria Nyberg of Macrame by Maja.  Her intricate knotting designs are just beautiful! Definitely something I couldn't have constructed myself.  Thanks, Maria!  :)

Thanks so much for the opportunity to take part in this event!


Monday, April 4, 2011

Bead Journal Project 2011 - March - Joyful Heart

THE PROJECT: I am so excited to share my latest beaded cuff creation for the 2011 Bead Journal Challenge.  My theme for this collection is character traits I admire in a strong woman.   My cuffs for January & February featured spirit and confidence.  This March piece pays tribute to The Joyful Heart Foundation, an organization that focuses on healing, educating and empowering survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse.  

THE INSPIRATION:  This organization was founded by one of the strongest, most inspiring, most emphatically passionate advocates of our time, Mariska Hargitay.  Mariska’s life was dramatically changed by the response she got playing special victims detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order: SVU.  The letters she received from victims, many of whom still held their secret inside, disclosed stories of abuse.  Mariska took this turning point in her life as her true calling.  She realized she wasn’t just meant  to act and bring the dramatic stories to life but to help shine light on subject matter that is often hidden and considered taboo.  

Mariska Hargitay founded the Joyful Heart Foundation in 2004 as a means of healing survivors and helping them to reclaim their lives.  Thousands of participants have had the opportunity to take part in their healing retreats and wellness programs.  Joyful Heart is at the forefront of awareness campaigns and they have opened up millions of eyes to issues that have stayed hidden for far too long.  One of their ongoing crusades is to end the backlog of untested rape kits.  Earlier this season, SVU aired “Behave,” a phenomenal episode guest starring Jennifer Love Hewitt which dealt with this horrible epidemic.   This episode was inspired by a true story shared at a Joyful Heart Celebration Gala.  Mariska and her fellow cast mates delivered a call to action which aired at the beginning of this episode.   

Together, Mariska & the Joyful Heart Foundation have made ending the backlog their priority.  Their work has led to the testing of thousands of rape kits that had been shelved for many years.   Mariska delivered a powerful testimony in front of congress about how we are failing the test of providing justice to sexual assault survivors.

I am not only a fan of her work as an actress, I also hold a deep respect for the passionate heart Mariska has and how she's making a difference in so many lives.  She’s taken a stand and used her visibility to deliver a program that provides support, encouragement and a new beginning.  To me, this exemplifies what it is to be a strong, powerful and inspiration woman.

THE DESIGN PROCESS:  At first, I was unsure of how to approach this design theme.   I wanted to make sure I did the foundation justice.  The idea to recreate the official Joyful Heart logo with beads seemed like the perfect solution.  There is so much carried through in those simple lines and letters…. so many shades, so much life and beauty.  To me, the blocks of color represent the differences in the individuals whose lives are being touched by Mariska and the Joyful Heart Foundation.   I think that joy and vitality transferred well into a piece of wearable art.

I am excited to share that this bracelet was created as a personal gift for Mariska.  Her inspiration is unmatched and I’m honored that my craft will allow her to quite literally wear her heart on her sleeve.
SHOW YOUR SUPPORT:  Please visit these links for more information about Mariska Hargitay and the ongoing efforts of The Joyful Heart Foundation:
They can also be followed on Twitter at @Mariska and @TheJHF
My jewelry designs to help End the Backlog can be found here: . 100% of proceeds will be donated to the foundation.

Thank you all for your continued support and encouragement throughout this creative challenge.  I am really enjoying bringing these pieces to life.  I am honored to create them and feel truly proud of this collection.  I welcome your thoughts and comments.

“When people are abused and assaulted, it is like the doors to their souls slam shut. The goal of Joyful Heart is to let the light, and the life, back in--to banish the darkness and let the healing begin."

  – Mariska Hargitay

Monday, February 28, 2011

Bead Journal Project 2011 - February - CONFIDENCE

It's that time again I am happy to say I am all caught up now!  January was a crazy month but the tail end of February died down enough to allow me to complete this piece in record time.  This is my second piece for the 2011 Bead Journal Challenge.  The theme I've chosen for my creative inspiration  is traits of a strong woman and this month's trait is "Confidence." 

Whereas arrogance can be a real turn-off in someone's personality, a person who has confidence is one to be admired.  It can come through in how they carry themselves - shoulders back, bright eyes, thoughtful consideration for the things around them.  Just being in the presence of someone with this beautiful trait can be very inspiring. 
  The phrase "proud as a peacock" has carried a negative connotation as people seem to feel that a peacock struts around with a superior presence.  Personally, I believe peacocks to be one of the most beautiful of all creatures... .and if I had those beautiful feathers, I might be walking around like that too.... but with graciousness, of course.  ;)

My February cuff is a graphic representation of a close-up view of a single peacock feather.  I worked with some color combinations I wouldn't normally use.  It was a bit of a challenge capturing the lines of a feather, but I tried my best to maintain the feathery
quality as they flare out from the quill. 

 I am quite happy with how this piece turned out.  These cuffs have a nice weight about them without being too overwhelming. It's a definite statement piece for the one who wears it, and I hope it's worn with pride.  Thanks for checking it out!  I welcome your comments!


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Bead Journal Project 2011 - January - SPIRIT

Well, I know I'm off to a slow start and it's only the first entry of the year, but I promise to get better at this!  January was a crazy month and so was the beginning of February.  I hope things have died down for a bit so I can get my February piece produced and posted in record time. ;)

The challenge put to us was to choose a theme and then a shape/size of beadwork to product a piece with that theme every month.  I am much more of a wearable art kinda girl rather than producing a set of journal pages for myself.  I want my pieces to be functional, so my size and shape of choice is a rectangular canvas that will be turned into a special collection of cuff bracelets.  

The theme I've chosen is character traits that I admire in a strong woman.  I've got several ideas in mind for the months to come but I know it will be tough to narrow it down to only 12.  My first piece is entitled "Spirit."  

I wanted to incorporate some beautiful elements found in nature so I designed my own floral motif (my fantasy flower turned out pretty cool for something that literally came to life before my eyes as I beaded it.)  The butterfly is a key element of my design as it has been honored as a symbol of transformation.   As we journey through life, we encounter endless turns, shifts and conditions that cause us to morph into ever-finer beings.  At our journey’s end, we are inevitably changed.  So this cuff represents the internal spirit and metamorphosis that a strong woman goes through when finding that strength within.

Here are some shots of my finished piece.  I welcome your feedback!  Looking forward to sharing more of this collection in the months to come.