Friday, December 31, 2010

Bead Journal Project - August

Most garments require closures and this month the "Fantasy Dressmaker" is experimenting with frogs.

Not the kind that jump, of course, but the type which can be used like a button to close a garment. Frogs are usually highly ornamental, designed to enhance the garment they are sewn onto in addition to acting as a closure.

The name is probably a reference to the fact that a frog closure splays out across a garment, like the limbs of a frog.

In historic fashions, frogs are seen on outerwear such as cloaks, capes or paletots. They are also seen on informal at-home-wear, such as ladies wrappers or gentleman's smoking jackets. Frogs do require a buttonhole, a real plus on heavy wool or quilted lining garments.

This particular frog is called a "double-knot" and was formed of an 18" beaded herringbone stitch cord - the herringbone duplicated the look of a braided cord quite nicely. The cord was joined end to end forming a circle which was then tied in an overhand knot - sounds simple doesn't it?

This one was defiantly a challenge but after numerous attempts (and a few bad words) it finally fell into place. Perhaps an actual cord in the center of the beading would have helped, but probably would have been to stiff.

Well, I obviously didn't finish my 2010 BJP on time, but I am committed to finishing - so more to come!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Au Natural

"Au Natural" is my submission for the December Art Bead Scene challenge.

We were offered two paintings for inspiration this month, "The Storm":

and "The Captive Robin":

Both are by John Anster Fitzgerald - (1819? – 1906) a "Victorian fairy painter" More than any of the other artists working in this genre, he was able to suggest the existence of a coherent alternative world which was ethereal and bizarre. As an artist, Fitzgerald appears to have been largely self-taught. His work was first shown at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, in 1845; he also exhibited at the British Institution, the Society of British Artists, and the Watercolour Society. In the late 1850s he created a series of Christmas fairies for The Illustrated London News.

My biggest challenge when participating in challenges is that I'm limited to using only items in my "stash", as my nearest bead shop is a ferry ride and a couple hours of driving away. This is especially true for the Art Bead Scene challenges - if I don't have a art bead that "fits", I either have to order something very quickly or not participate. I was lucky this time, I has a teal and gold bumpy art bead that resembled the small blue fairy in "The Captive Robin".
Each of the painting includes many natural elements: leaves, pods, berries, etc. I decided to include the botanical forms that can be found in winter - skeletonized leaves, pods, lichen and knobbly branches.

I used a variety of beading techniques, tubular and freeform peyote, Russian leaves and fringing. I decided to further challenge myself with an asymmetrical placement.

I'm pleased with it - it's a bit more minimal than my typical work, yet still has plenty of detail.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Bead Journal Project - July

Passementerie is the art of making elaborate trimmings or edgings (in French, passements) of applied braid, gold or silver cord, embroidery, colored silk, or beads for clothing or home furnishings.

The "Fantasy Dressmaker" decided to create passementerie en suite, a coordinating collection, designed to be used in various ways on a single garment.

Here were her inspiration pieces, obviously not en suite, but with great possibilities to be recreated in beads:

And here are her results:

Starting at the top is the daintiest offering, created with a ladder stitch band and simple loops. It would be perfect on the edge of a netting, lace or chiffon sleeve.

In the middle, a much more substantial fringed braid; it would work nicely to edge a heavy silk taffeta or brocade - I can see it outlining an elaborately draped bustle.

And finally, the largest with triple bands connected with netting and finished with scallops; this piece could be used to fill a bodice or as a truly over the top hem trim.

The creative dressmaker of the past could have used any combination of this en suite set; the primary limitation would have been the deepness of her customer's pockets - or more correctly, the customer's husband!

Saturday, December 25, 2010


This is our wish for you:
Peace of mind,
Prosperity through the year,
Happiness that multiples,
Health for you and yours,
Fun around every corner,
Energy to chase your dreams,
Joy to fill your holidays!

This is our 3rd annual "homemade card"; the design is hand carved in linoleum and each is a hand pulled block print - they are truly a labor of love we share with friends and family.

Enjoy your holidays!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Touring Michigan - Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park

On our recent road trip, we visited the Frederick Meijer Gardens and their current exhibit, "Christmas Holidays and Traditions Around the World".

The exhibit includes 40 "international" trees, unfortunately that portion of the exhibit was rather disappointing - just very stereotypical, themed trees, with commercial ornaments.

But there was one notable exception, the Victorian Tree, covered with a collection of over 3500 antique ornaments.

Beneath the tree, something I've never seen before - molds used to form the ornaments.

A few of the ornaments were wire wrapped. Today that wire is a bit tarnished, but when new they caught and reflected the candlelight then used to illuminate Christmas trees.

Czechoslovakia was known for beaded ornaments, in many designs, from a simple snowflake type of design to bicycles, grasshoppers, butterflies, spiders, and spider webs. These were made out of tiny beads strung together with wire, and then hand-shaped into ornaments.

Dresden ornaments were figural ornaments made from embossed, pressed cardboard manufactured by the craftsmen of Dresden, Germany. Usually finished in silver or gilt, these intricate pressed cardboard decorations were formed in the shapes of a variety of animals, vehicles and objects. Highly detailed, many even have moving parts such as wheels that really turn. They were only made for a relatively short time, from about 1870 to 1910.

The Dresden factories would stamp out the parts, and then cottage workers would assemble the pieces at home. Some are painted. Most are either gold or silver, so they almost look like metal when you first see them.

The German glass Christmas ornament industry evolved out of glassmaking for scientific equipment, test tubes and vials, that sort of thing. But there was also a glass-bead industry for fashion, When glass beads for fashion went out of style, German glassblowers started making round balls called kugels.

A "Kugel" is a particular type of 19th century glass ornament. The first Kugels were brought to America from Germany in the 1860's. These were thick, often large, glass ornaments with a dull sheen and large, flat and decorative caps. They are clear or colored glass which is silvered on the inside. Round ones are the most common, but there are also elongated kugels and kugels in the shape of a bunch of grapes.
In the mid 19th century, a glassmaker from the German village of Lauscha developed a method for producing molded glass ornaments. By 1890, the Lauscha glassblowers perfected the use of molds, called formsachen, in their work. Though blowing an ornament in a mold was a time-consuming but fairly simple operation, it paved the way for mass production. Skilled craftsmen made the molds from wood or clay. They designed the object and then cast it in a plaster-of Paris-like material. With a reusable mold, the glassblowers could reproduce an ornament many times over.

An enormous variety of ornaments–from over 5,000 different molds--came out of Lauscha between 1870 and 1940.

By 1880, full-sized trees decorated with expensive imported German glass ornaments became the rage with the elite. American F. W. Woolworth reluctantly agreed to display a few imported German glass ornaments to his Lancaster, Pennsylvania, store in 1880. To his amazement, his original $25 shipment sold out in two days. By 1890, he was traveling to Germany to select his wares.

I was completely fascinated by this tree, every ornament unique and beautiful, fragile little treasures from the past.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bead Journal Project - June

Soutache braidwork has been used as a fashionable trim throughout many eras and this month the "Fantasy Dressmaker" is showing her interpretation - in beads, of course.

Soutache is a braided trim which can be used to decorate clothing, upholstery or drapery. The braid itself is most commonly made in a herringbone pattern. Two threads are placed on opposite sides of a pair of inner cords and, starting with the left thread, it is placed over the middle cord and right thread. Then alternating with the right one, the pattern continues until a braid is formed. This design is called a French herringbone pattern. A Dutch herringbone pattern is when the threads are placed underneath the cord and opposite thread.

Soutache is a French word thought to have been first used in the mid 1800's. It comes from the Hungarian word sujtas, which means braid used for trimming. Another word for soutache is galloon, which is also French and comes from the 16th century. It is derived from gallonner and means to embellish or adorn with lace.

The soutache is stitched down the center groove formed during it's creation, frequently in very elaborate patterns. Such patterns were a common feature of the ladies magazines , as well as fashion plates showing the use of soutache.

These plates are from the mid-1860's:

The fantasy dressmaker created her bead soutache using herringbone stitch - it just seemed appropriate and it resulted in a natural groove down the center for stitching.
Many patterns include numerous loops, these are loops are actually fairly easy to create due to the method used in the construction of the soutache itself.

The trick is in those two inner cores - by exposing and carefully pushing the soutache up and gently pulling just a single core down, a loop will be formed. Loops can be formed in the opposite direction by pulling the opposite cord. After a bit of nudging into proper position, it's just a a few quick stitches to secure the loop in place.
Obviously, this wasn't going to work with soutache formed of beads. so a pattern without little loops was chosen from Sherwood's Impression Powder and Perforated Patterns published in 1865.
Applying soutache is fairly easy, it's the sheer yardage that can become problematic - this little 5" x 7" swatch used 4 feet. Image a skirt that's 180" around...

I found some examples of period usage, these all date form the 1860's, but soutache comes in and out of fashion right u to the present day.

Soutache, such a simple trim...but yet so impactful.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Touring Michigan - Manistee Part 2

Most people don't consider winter a good time to visit the beach, but they would be wrong.

Visiting in the winter means solitude, just you, the lake, the sand and the sky.

The is the Manistee North Pierhead Light - the first lighthouse to mark the entrance to the Manistee River was a two-story gabled dwelling with a light tower protruding from one end of the roof. The lighthouse was in operation for a year, when it was destroyed by the fire of 1871. A nearly identical light was built the following year and served until 1875. The present cylindrical tower and attached elevated catwalk were placed on the pier in 1927, note the ice buildup on the catwalk.

Visiting in winter also means the opportunity to enjoy Nature's ability to create sculpture, using no more than sand, wind and water:

Water, pooled and frozen in sand, revealed only when the excess sand is scoured away by the ever present wind - so delicate and fated to disappear, leaving no trace.

Water and wind again, but with such differing results, but equally ephemeral:

And, yes, I was in the water to take these - there are advantages to living the rural lifestyle, like owning and wearing really warm and waterproof boots!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Touring Michigan - Manistee

We live on Michigan's crown jewel, Mackinac Island, but Michigan has plenty of other intriguing places to visit. Recently we took a bit of time away and I thought I'd share a few impressions of our trip.

We started in Manistee; named after the river which passes through it and according to legend it is an Indian word meaning "The Spirit of the Woods".

Just like Mackinac, Manistee was an outpost of the American Fur Company in the 1820's. Around this same time Manistee was considered one of the busiest commercial fishing ports on Lake Michigan.

On October 8, 1871, the same day as the great Chicago fire, the fire alarm sounded in Manistee. Monday found the city a scene of desolation and ruin. Over 1,000 men, women and children were left homeless.

Rock salt deposits were discovered in 1879 and salt continues to be mined today.

In 1885, there were forty sawmills cutting millions of feet of lumber annually and the city of Manistee a roaring, thriving community of 16,000 - about three times as many as today.

So, furs, fishing, fire, lumber and salt define the history of this lakeside town, which is today defined tourism.

We spent the night at the Ramsdell Inn, a delightfully renovated former commercial building. Built in 1891 as a bank, news reports of the time emphasis it's fireproof construction - memories of the fire of 1871 were still strong.

The renovation was incredibly well done, the architectural details of the past have been preserved and the modern code requirements kept as unobtrusive as possible.

Above the former bank vault is "Miss Manistee", a symbolic representation of the city and the men who made her what she is - she holds a civic key of salt crystals and a twig of pine. The background includes lumber piles, salt derricks and schooners and she is surrounded by Indians, voyageurs, a river driver, etc. This graphic representation of of the city's past has been carefully restored and preserved - it glows in the light.

Even in the winter, the downtown area is filled with antique shops, boutiques and galleries.

Check out this window display at the River Street Gallery

The figures and animals are life sized and formed of nothing more than corrugated cardboard - the detail and imagination is incredible. It was created by the owner's wife and will be moving to University of Dayton's Marian Library collection of creches.

A random ice sculpture (yes, I know, ice again!) in a parking lot - a leftover from a holiday party maybe?

Love the fish sculpture - the painted design is the markings of a Petoskey stone or fossilized coral.

A must see is the Manistee County Historical Museum, especially at Christmastime.

The vintage trains are amazing, and not just the trains themselves, but all the accessories that go with them - working fountains, gates, building, and people. I could have spent hours trying to absorb all the details.

Each year, the rooms upstairs are decorated for the season to reflect the customs of a specific ethnic background, this year was Swiss and French Canadian.

As is typical for most small local museums, they rely heavily on volunteers, and as one volunteer told us, they are a "stuff museum" - they need to work with the "stuff" that is donated to them. Often that can lead to some rather random displays, but I was impressed with the work here; everything was quite cohesive and they had done a great job of working with what was available, yet showing a good, reasonably accurate representation of the past.

So what do you think - any interest in more "Touring Michigan"?