Friday, November 26, 2010

Maybe I Pushed It TOO Far...

I enjoy learning and/or creating new beading techniques, and I really love to push the techniques in directions that no one expects - my bead embroidered silk transfer images are a good example, what started as just a bit of simple surface embellishment has become increasingly complex. I keep experimenting with a variety of techniques to better capture the textures and dimensions of the different subjects.

But I think I may have went to far...

Here's the photo I started with:

My thought was to create custom "portrait bags", a long lasting remembrance for ladies attending the annual "Somewhere in Time" weekend each October. Many of these ladies have invested large amounts of time and money assembling their ensembles, for a once in a lifetime experience.

What do you think - good idea or a bit too much?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Branching Out

This is my first submission to the Art Bead Scene's monthly challenge; this months inspiration piece is Gustav Klimt's "Tree of Life".

I have always been enamored of Klimt's work, the dense patterns and and shimmering colors are definitely full of inspiration.

The blue tree art bead is from my stash, I don't recall where it came from, but it was a great starting point for this piece.

I wanted it to hang on the bead-studded herringbone chain, not below it. Sunburst peyote rings connect the herringbone to brass chain.

The clasp is formed of another sunburst ring and a beaded toggle.

I've been experimenting with mixed technique pieces, but this is quite different from most of my work - not so much the colors, but the overall "feel" of the piece is lighter, looser? I'm not sure how to describe it, but I do like it!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Warm Toes are Important!

It's November, cold, grey and drizzly and there's not much better after biking home, up the hill in the cold, grey drizzle, than kicking back with a hot cup of tea, a good book and a pair of slippers to warm up the cold toes.

But I've never had much luck with commercial slippers - they're always way too wide and won't stay on my feet, very frustrating!

So I started looking for a ideas to make my own and found this: instructions and template for felt slippers. I liked the concept, but I didn't have any wool felt, but after a bit of digging through the stash, I found a wool sweater that had inadvertently been felted - finally it could be useful.

So I made them up...and they were way too wide.

But having the seams on the outside made it easy to adjust; I just put them on, pinned to fit, sewed a new seam and cut off the excess. Custom fit is such a pleasure!

I wore them for a couple days and they just seemed to need a little something, so back to the stash. I found some wool crewel yarn, which resulted in just a bit of chain stitched embroidery. I also found some chunky black chenille yarn, perfect to use for a button hole stitch around the ankles.

I'm really pleased with them, they're warm, they're cute, they are easy to construct, they fit and they were free - everything came out of the stash.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

November "Cycling"

There's not typically much left in bloom by this late in the year, but that doesn't mean there are no interesting plants to discover and this example is especially appropriate for November: the turkey tail fungus.

Turkey Tail or Trametes versicoloris is a common bracket fungus. It has no stalk, unlike a mushroom and is leathery to the touch.

But the most distinctive feature are the fan-shaped fruiting bodies with the same kind of concentric banding and roughly the same palette of colors as an actual turkey’s tail, but the fungal tails are far smaller, ranging from less than an inch to three inches across. Plus, no two are alike: there are softly banded ones and others with startlingly bold, contrasting colors in their bands. White, all the shades of brown and gray imaginable, plus brownish reds, oranges, and purples are possibilities; the variability is attributed to both a fungus’s genetic makeup and its environment.

Turkey tails are among the most common and most beautiful fungi in the woods. Often they fruit prolifically, completely covering a stump or downed tree trunk.

Here's my inspiration photo, taken during a walk in the autumn woods:

This piece has a lot of dimension and depth, as each cup is attached only on it's inner edge. I wasn't able to find the range of colors I needed in the darker palette of the inspiration photo, but I was able to recreate the bands of colors using beads in a variety of colors, finishes and sizes.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Steeling Myself

I'm soooo behind on my Bead Journal pages....

But I did just finish my page for March!!!

My "muse" for this project is a fantasy dressmaker, who attempts to create various vintage style dress trimmings in beads; this time, she was inspired by steel ornaments - yes, steel.

Steel can take, and was given, a very high polish, so that it reflected and shone as much as silver. The surface could, of course, be decorated by techniques such as engraving. But perhaps the most characteristic use of steel as ornaments is steel studs.

These are small pieces of steel cut to shape, and then given a high polish. The commonest shape was a faceted stud, similar to a cut gemstone. But in addition almost any other shape might be used, including rectangular faceted bars, frustra of cones, crescents and vesica.

In addition steel beads were made which could be used on steel jewellery or sewn into dresses, woven into purses or used in any other way that took the fancy of an artisan or a lady genteelly engaged in needlework.

A shoe buckle, or other piece of jewellery, was made by cutting a base plate, usually from steel, brass or even a low grade of silver alloy, into the shape of the final article. The studs were then rivetted or screwed onto these base plates. Small base plates could be linked together to make larger pieces or flexible pieces such as bracelets. Steel studs were always rivetted or screwed, probably because steel jewellery sprang from a metal working tradition not from the jewellers' tradition.

Victorian cut steel jewelry was originally made in Woodstock, England, these became a fashion in France as a replacement for the fine diamond jewelry the French monarchy confiscated to pay for the Seven Years' War in 1759. The earliest pieces were made from recycled steel nails machined to have up to 15 facets. Later production was more mechanized, used less facets and ultimately gave way to stamped pieces embellished with a few actual studs.

These are a few pieces from my collection, shoe buckles, buttons, and other small ornamental pieces.

And here's my secret weapon in duplicating the look - vintage glass sew ons, with faceted tops, they were perfect replicas for the steel studs.
Here's my beaded version of a fancy, nonfunctional belt buckle. Many period belt buckles are purely ornamental, just an accent piece.
I can picture this being used in any number of ways on a vintage costume: at the waistline, accenting a bodice, on a bustle, or even a large hat - it's very versatile.

I have a number of ideas regarding modern usage of the technique too...and luckily I have a nice sized stash of those vintage sew ons, so future projects are a definite possibility.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

An Investment for The Future

Planting trees is a leap of faith, as trees are slow growing and the planter will most likely not see them as mature specimens - truly an investment in the future.

Last week, we experienced as change of view, when twenty mature, but poorly chosen Norway maples were removed from Cadotte Avenue; I still am amazed at the difference, it's so open now.

Well, there's more change in store, here come some new trees.

A native maple was chosen this time and good sized specimens, approximately 15', which need correspondingly good sized holes.

Digging the holes revealed a surprise, a previous road bed approximately 2' below the surface.

And here they are - it will be many years before they form the arching, almost street spanning reach of the previous trees, but they should have a far longer lifespan than the invasive, disease ridden Norway's - a pleasure for future residents and visitors of Mackinac.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Orange and Blue - a very 1860's color combo and I initially thought that was my inspiration for my color choices on this beaded bag I recently finished.

But I'm coming to the conclusion that inspiration is seldom so simple to define or even recognize.

Isn't it possible I was influenced by the brilliant blue skies and blazing foliage we so recently were enjoying?

Or the brilliant orange walls in my living space?

Or was it simply random?

Personally, I think artists are influenced by absolutely everything they see or experience - it all goes in and how it comes back out depends on how deep we are willing to go, how much we are willing to reveal, how much we are willing to experiment, and allowing ourselves to fail sometimes.

It doesn't always need to be serious, look at "Confetti" - it's a party of a bag, with stripes and polka dots, fringe and ruffles. It moves and swirls, just like those autumn leaves twirl through the sky; it would be perfect to have swinging on your arm as you go about your routine and maybe will inspire some experiences of your own!

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Change of View

They're coming down!

X marks each of the twenty Norway maples that were removed from Cadotte Avenue, between Grand Hotel and the school.

Norway maples are a non-native, invasive species. Norway's were introduced to North America in the late 1700's. George Washington is said to have bought two from a Philadelphia importer. They became widespread around World War II when many were planted to replace elms stricken by the Dutch Elm disease.

Like so many non-native species, Norway maples cause problems in native plant populations.

Its extreme shade tolerance, especially when young, allows it to penetrate beneath an intact forest canopy. Woodlands which have been invaded by Norway maple, suffer losses in diversity of native forest wildflowers compared with forests in which the canopy is dominated by native species such as sugar maple.

When mature, Norway's are very susceptible to many diseases and pests, causing them to be both unattractive and potentially dangerous due to falling limbs.

So down they came, and it's going to take awhile to adjust to the change of view:

But as so often happens on Mackinac, it's not really a "new" view, but actually a replaying of the past - check out this vintage postcard, does it look just a little bit familiar?