Monday, January 31, 2011

Ice Bridge 2011

Last Boat: January 19th

First Ice Crossing: January 23rd

First Trees Placed to Mark the Trail: January 24th


So what's an ice bridge?

This is - the Straits of Mackinac, frozen between Mackinac Island and St. Ignace, approximately a four mile trip. For Islander's it means freedom to come and go to the mainland at will, without worrying about ferry or plane schedules.

Christmas trees are cleverly repurposed to mark the trail:

It can seem like a highway out there sometimes, with all the comings and goings...and even billboards!

Here's another use for the ice: a landing strip, note the skis on the front!

So, why does the ice bridge go to St. Ignace and not Mackinac City?

Freighter traffic. This 1000 footer is making way slowly through heavy ice, with the Coast Guard ice cutter moving in advance. If you happen to be out on the ice when one goes through, it's an unsettling feeling - literally, you can both feel and hear the ice moving.

The ice came in fast and early this year, how long it will last is unknown. But we'll enjoy it while it's here, our temporary bridge, created by nature and thus subject to nature's whims.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


"Aswirl" is my entry for the January Art Bead Scene challenge. This months inspiration piece is "Brown River by Wayne Thiebaud.

I love the intense colors, but I really needed to be selective - so I tried to limit myself to the colors in my chosen art bead. (I failed, there's no hot pink in the bead!)

I purchased a set of five coordinating lampwork beads from Etsy seller MichalMenahem.

I've used two in this piece, one as a focal and one in the construction of the clasp. I've plans to use the remaining three in a necklace to match the bracelet.

The bracelet is constructed using freeform peyote stitch; it worked well to emulate the curving forms of the inspiration piece as well as the texture.

Available for purchase here.

And I actually managed to finish the necklace in a timely manner!
It's not typical to butt to focal beads together like this, but I liked the way they flowed together and anyone familiar with my work knows it's seldom typical.

I kept the focus front and center, with just a simple strap for the rest of the necklace; it goes well with the bracelet without being to heavy or overwhelming.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bead Journal Project - December 2010 part 2

I just realized I failed to give any information on the beading techniques I used in my final 2010 swatch - oops!

The leaves are passed an an article form Godey's Magazine and Lady's book, circa 1854.

This particular article is somewhat unusual, as the directions are actually useful!

Most often, instructions of this era are "Make up in the usual manner" or "Any lady can complete examining our illustration".

The flowers and the dragonfly are made using a technique called Victorian beading.

Victorian beading is often confused with French beading, as both use wire and are frequently used for flowers, but the two techniques are quite different.

Victorian beading is made similar to ladder stitch Is is made with horizontal lines of beads and both ends of the wire go through the whole row. There are more or less beads added to each row, to create the shape of the petal or leaf.

With French Beading all the beads are thread onto the wire before beginning, and the wire is left on the spool and not cut till the end. Rows of beads that are twisted onto a separate section of wire at the top, then the row of beads is passed down the other side, and to another section at the bottom, where it is twisted around again and then goes back to the top until the desired shape is formed.

Completed French beading is typically fairly heavy weight, as a large wire needs to be used; Victorian beading can use a much smaller wire, actually you must use light weight wire as it needs to pass through each bead twice.

I've never seen a vintage example of French beading used for personal adornment, only for decorative home items - thus my choice of Victorian beading for my swatch.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bead Journal Project - December 2010

And I did it - finally!

My 2010 Bead Journal Project pages are complete and the final page is a three dimensional floral spray.
Elegant ladies have always known the value of flowers as adornment and fresh are not always possible.

What makes this particular spray especially interesting is that it has been constructed "En Tremblant".

En tremblant" is a French term - meaning "to tremble" - given to 18th and 19th century jewelry where parts were mounted on thin, stiff wire or coils; every movement of the wearer caused the piece to move, in this case, the flight of a dragonfly or the breeze blowing upon lilies.

Faceted beads are effective for this usage, before electric light was common, evening wear required elements that would catch the available light.

I designed a display card to mount this on, with a botanical theme - the "Fantasy Dressmaker" is well aware that presentation makes all the difference!

Now that the swatches are complete, it's time to design the "swatchbook" itself - and I can tell you that it won't be in a book format, more about that soon.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Just a Winter Day on Mackinac

Sure looks like a lot of ice out there...

At least, enough to hold an eagle...

And enough to cause the ferry to go around the back side of the Island and approach the harbor from the east...

Time to fly!

Breaking ice is noisy...

Falling snow - nice and peaceful.

All taken today...just another winter day on Mackinac!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Bead Journal Project - November 2010

The "Fantasy Dressmaker" experimented with an ancient technique this month, netting.

Bead netting can be traced back to Egyptian artifacts and is probably older in origin.

The origins of bead netting can be traced back to fiber netting; fiber netting has been used for fishing nets and snares since the earliest times of humankind.

During the Victorian period, bead netting was used to create garments such as capelets, as well as many types of accessories and trims.

The netting is the form of "van dykes" or points, a technique that was adapted from an 1858 bracelet design, which can be seen here.

So why van dyke?

The name "vandyke" originated from a beard, Sir Anthony Vandyke’s beard, (1599-1641), which was short and pointed. From beards to beadwork, the basic shape was recreated in netting, for this design.Vandykes can be seen in many other forms of needlework and are a common motif in dress trimmings from a variety of eras.

The end is in sight, one more month and my Bead Journal Project for 2010 will finally be complete - well, sort of - I have a rather ambitious plan for the twelve swatches.

I also have my plans for my 2011 BJP, I really hope to keep to a better schedule this year!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Attitudes on Snow

It's amazing how a change of location can cause a change of attitude, in my case, regarding snow.

When we lived downstate, it was quite depressing to hear a weather forecast of "2 inches of snow expected" - the shoveling, the driving, the mess.

But now, living in Mackinac,my response is more likely to be, "only 2 inches, we want more!"

And we really do want more, as there's only a very few inches on the ground and it's all light airy snow - not the wet, heavy snow that packs down to a good base for cross country skiing, sledding, snowshoeing or snowmobiling.

But, it's very pretty and if you slow down and really look at the surroundings, you might be surprised by what you see:

This is a patch of sumac, just down the path from our house; they're a nice patch of color in the winter and the arching berry heads are lovely.

But with the addition of a snowy headdress, they resemble a flock of exotic long necked birds.

This is the remnants of a cow parsnip, they're a favorite of mine, they can be more than 6 feet tall and have a very architectural aspect.
The little stems, which once held flowers and then seeds, seem almost designed to capture and hold the snow.

A trail through the cedars.

And "ye old blockhouse", heading down Fort Hill.

A tiny balsam, which has taken root in an older tree stump; the little "path" in the background is all squirrel tracks - there must be something good to eat nearby.

And finally, the subject of most conversations these days: ICE!

Rumors are rampant that the final boat of the season could be any day and there is certainly skim ice moving through the Straits:

As well as a bit of ice in the harbor:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bead Journal Project - October 2010

The "Fantasy Dressmaker" knows that details make all the difference and a trimwork medallion can be used to enhance an outfit.
Medallions may be used to draw the eye, as is frequently seen on cloaks, accenting the closure. Sometimes, they are used as a device to hide something that's less than lovely, such as the raw ends of braidwork.

This set of medallions features a pair of vintage pressed glass cabochons, surrounded by a beaded bezel.
The bezel includes freshwater pearls and faceted copper beads.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Bead Journal Project - September

This month, the "Fantasy Dressmaker" is exploring buttons.

The earliest identified button is a pierced and curved piece of shell, thought to be 5000 years old and was used as an ornament - buttons were not used as functional closures until approximately the 13th century.

These buttons are, of course, beaded, using a needlepoint technique. The motif is pansies or heartease. In the Victorian language of flowers, they represent loving thoughts or memories.
Pansies were a very popular floral accent, appearing frequently in patterns for embroidery, millinery and printed fabrics.

Here's the entire set, displayed an a copy of a Victorian button card - even then it was all about the presentation.

The larger button would be purely ornamental, perhaps to accent a belt or to trim a hat. The mid size button could be used as either functional or ornamental on a substantial fabric such a s velvet of brocade. The smallest button would be stunning used down the back of a bodice - just picture them all in a row.

The choice of buttons can make or break an outfit and it was not unusual for a period outfit to have buttons created specifically for that particular garment - it's all about the details!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

It Snowed in the Night

It snowed in the night, softly, gently, and we awoke to a different world.

A world where a dead plant can bloom again.

A world where a slender branch can defy gravity, supporting volumes of snow.
A world where the cold is embraced.

I walked to work in an overwhelming silence, no wind, no birdsong, no human made noise excepting the sound of my own footsteps.

It was completely magical...

... and oh, so fleeting - by the time I walked home again, the wind had returned, knocking the snow from the trees, the birds were calling and I was scolded by a red squirrel for passing by his tree.

Mackinac magic, there's nothing else that can compare.