Saturday, January 31, 2015

Inspired by Basketry

I have always loved baskets. It probably stems from my mother who was quite basket crazy. She would hang them on the walls, take them out in the garden, use them as storage in the kitchen, and even as storage in her hatch-back car. I inherited many of her baskets, but my favorites are her Navajo patterned ones and her old hamper picnic baskets. I just kind of love the handmade look to baskets. 

I decided to create a bracelet that had that woven look to the sides but a sturdy rim. This is a right-angle weave attached to leather using hemp. And for just a touch of an old-world, Egyptian look, I decided to include a brass scarab cabochon as the focal. 

The craft of basketry seems to have changed very little over the centuries. In doing my little history search for this post I came across gorgeous baskets woven today as well as wonderful, rustic antique ones from around the world. You can see my collection on Pinterest, or the Etsy treasury I created below.

Basketry is one of the oldest crafts around originating back to ancient Egypt when materials like grasses, reeds, stalks of flax or twigs were abundant. These were used to make not only baskets, but mats, bags, beds, sandals or even reed rafts. It is said that basketry came first and influenced cloth weaving, pottery and even carpentry. Some say that basketry inspired pottery as early baskets were lined with clay for waterproofing and those that accidentally burned left behind thin-walled pottery. I love discovery out of what might at first glance look like a mistake. 

One of my favorite examples of a mistake is about Ivory soap. Ivory was originally just another bar soap, but the guy who ran the mixing machine accidentally left it on while he was out to lunch and it over whipped the batch of soap. P&G decided to sell it anyway, and once out on the market people were clamoring for the 'soap that floats' because at the time woman would have to dig around in the bottom of the washtub for the soap. I know, I know. I'm off track again. But sometimes I love the little side stories.

Basket Case

My mother loved baskets and often joked calling herself a Basket Case given her rather large collection
Antique Native American Indian Hupa Basket
Antler Basket with Dried Philodendron - Item 670 by Susan Ashley
Vintage Woven Boho Basket / Boho Decor / Southwestern Decor / Mexican Tight Weave Basket With Lid
Washoe Polychrome Degikup Native American Indian Tribe Paiute HUGE GIANT Coiled Native Globular Basket Giant Enormous Willow Rod Coil
Large Red-Man Picnic Basket w/ Accessories 50's & 60's
Straw Flower  Pine Needle Basket handmade
Tlingit Indian Style Spruce Root Rattletop Basket
Vintage  Hupa Basket - Mint Condition - Rattle Snake Band Basket - Native American Basket -  Indian Basket - Home Decor
Vintage Round Coiled Basket with Lid, Finely Hand Woven
Large Vintage Woven Basket or Purse - Black Straps, Handles
Native American hand woven coil basket southwestern
Vintage Native American Round Lidded Trinket Basket with Knob
PNW Native American Designs
Papago Horsehair Mini Basket & Lid Genuine Tohono O'odham The Desert People
Native American Basket / Authenticated Indian Coil Basket With Lid / Rustic Southwestern Decor / Unique Storage / Antique Handmade Container
Vintage Coil Basket Southwestern Design

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Beneath the Surface :: Lessons

Recently my daughter was struggling with a problem. It would have been easier for me to pick it up and fix it ... probably within an hour, maybe two. But instead I decided that it was a good life lesson. A frustrating one, but a harmless one. It took her nearly 5 days to resolve; I coached her, but only when she asked. Sometimes there are things in life that you can't teach. It is something you have to live to understand.

My daughter Anne works with me a lot in my studio, and it is amazing to see how she creates. It's different. Different from what I might chose. But isn't that the best part? I have to hold myself back from saying "why don't you try this ....." because I don't want to stop her creative process. 

When we were at Beadfest last year Anne spent time by Melinda Orr's side. And I had the pleasure of watching her learn from Melinda. Branching out and doing things I would never have thought of. The two of them created birds' nests. Something I would have looked at and said ... "maybe we need to straighten this up a bit over here ..." But then look what she ended up making. Something she wears constantly, and takes such pride in saying "I made it."  Sometimes the lessons learned aren't for her, they're for me.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Beneath the Surface :: Keys

I found a pile of old keys up in our camp when my mother-in-law and I were cleaning out cupboards. I asked if they went to anything? But these keys have long since unlocked what they were meant to. Whatever doors, chests or closets they went to are long gone at this point. I was left just wondering what beautiful old wood features these might have unlocked. 

I originally thought I was going to polish them and give them new life in a piece of jewelry. But instead I decided to keep their years of wear and deep coloring as is. Sometimes the tarnish you pick up in life adds character and for people who care to look beneath the surface they might find a deeper beauty. 

It has taken me a long time to get to this point in my life. To stop looking ahead, and try to live in the moment. To stop collecting, and to start thinking about what are the few things I would put in a suitcase and take off traveling. You have to think more carefully when you know you're going to have to carry it. 

It isn't an easy thing to let go of the burden you can feel with all the responsibilities of life. They pull at you. And keep you focused to lists, dates and achievements. Not that these things aren't important. But when is it enough?

I took a look at my current key ring and realized that I was carrying around several keys that I no longer use. Why not unburden myself, pull off what I don't use? And create something new, from something old to remind myself to reassess my load from time to time. An old key for a new filter on life.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Blog Book Tour :: Explorations in Freeform Peyote Beading

I know that I've already told you about Karen's new book Explorations in Freeform Peyote Beading, but when she said she was doing a book tour I just had to jump in!

You all may know that Karen is the reigning queen of freeform, and for good reason. Have you seen her work? There was one piece she showed on her blog as a work in progress that I just could not wait to see how she finished called: Messages in a Bottle. Yep it is in here, And yep, it is as amazing as I thought it would be. But I'll let you guys all run over to Karen's blog to get a preview from her.

I thought instead that I would give you a second peek at some of the work in the book. Aaaaaand, since I already shared with you one of my featured pieces, I asked Karen if instead of talking more about me (which of course is fun and all) it would be ok to give you all a peek at someone else in the book: Bobbie Rafferty. 

I could gush all afternoon about Bobbie's beadwork, and was thrilled when Karen said it would be great to give a shout out on her piece. But what I really wanted to know was the story behind the intriguing face? And so I asked Bobbie, and she told me that it was something a friend gave her years ago who owned a bead shop where she taught. Where she of course also frequently shopped ... what self respecting beader could hold back if you just happened to be in the shop teaching?!

Her friend bought several of the faces, but people weren't buying as the light purple tint on the profile seemed challenging? So her friend handed one to Bobbie and said "do something with it." Bobbie certainly did! But she did confess that it took her 10 years to finish, LOL. This baby went back and forth across state lines and was part of a pack up and move, then rediscovery before it was complete. 

Bobbie told me her inspiration was the sea. She said ....
"She just always looked like a mermaid or sea nymph to me, and the color of her face was the soft pinkish purple you find inside a shell. I had tiny shells from the beach, which I thought I could weave in, but getting the needle through the natural lengthwise hole formed by the swirl of the shell was impossible. I was afraid that they were too delicate to drill a hole into. So even though I swore everything would be stitched around the face, glue became my friend in making the hair. After that, I completed the bezel, made some ruffles to imitate waves and seafoam, started expanding the freeform."

I can imagine that this piece lured many to pick it up, and Bobbie said she sure did ...
"Once she was finished, she was always front and center in my display at shows, serving as a great lure for passersby into my booth.  She was in an exhibition at the Kentucky Artisans Center. I wore her to a couple of events. And then at one show, she went home with a charming lady who fell in love with her."

There are just so many wonderful pieces to pour over in Karen's book. And it isn't all just eye candy (which I know we all love). She's also got lots of instruction on stitches. and she makes it a point to show how artist bring their pieces together. Anyone who has tried freeform has likely struggled a bit with it - at least at first. It feels messy, and there aren't any instructions. So getting a sense of the thought process can be very helpful when you're trying to find your freeform style. Karen really covered a lot of territory in this book!

I hope you'll take the time over the next few days to stop in and visit the other artists on the book tour. Oh and there is a drawing too! Just hop around to the blogs and comment. Each comment (per blog) counts as an entry in the drawing (a total of 8 for each participating blog). Karen will announce the winner on her blog Saturday January 24th.

Book Blog Tour and Launch Party  January 15-20, 2015
Thursday (January 15) Karen Williams of Baublicious
Friday (January 16) Cynthia Machata of Antiquity Travelers
Saturday (January 17) Nancy Dale of NED Beads
Sunday (January 18) Bobbie Rafferty Beadsong Jewelry
Monday (January 19) Natalia Malysheva of Aqvatali
Monday (January 19) Sarah Meadows of Saturday Sequins
Tuesday (January 20) Ibolya Barkóczi of Ibolya-gyöngyei 
Tuesday (January 20) Mandi Ainsworth of Bead Circle 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Time to Stitch VI :: Beading with Graphs

Today Therese and Christine are hosting the next installment of their popular bead weaving hop A Time To Stitch. This time the theme is to use a graph to bead our projects. And Amy, from Amybeads, graciously offered up graph patterns for us to use for this hop. Quick shout out to the charity Bead-it-Forward Quilt that Amy chairs for breast cancer research. These little 2x2 beaded squares come together in quilts sold to raise the money for the charity. 

Ok, so I picked one of Amy's patterns (the bull) to bead up my 2x2 square but things did not go as planned. Yes I did bead something resembling the Bull, but no it is not 2x2. I even tried this baby twice, and both times it is not quite right. 

The first version uses size 10 delicas, which Christine and I found out from Amy are a rare and not often found delica size. Amy (an avid 2x2 square beader) said she'd never heard of size 10 delicas. Christine then fessed up saying she bought her's from a now closed local bead store. I found mine at an off-the-beaten track bead store in Manhattan, but I think they mislabeled some of them. Why might you ask do I know this? Well, you'll note that my so-called 'squares' are wonky, caused by slightly mismatched bead sizes. Heavy sigh.

The first one, I was going for a subtle pattern (pink on gun metal grey), which you'll see doesn't show up well. And is also too small for the Bead-it-Forward Quilt. I was trying to create a 2x2 to send, so I specifically asked at the bead store for the right size delicas. But you can see the tan/ bronze 'square' is also not so square. 

I gave up at this point, and moved on. I decided that a I'd use a recent Ombre cuff I made as inspiration. I wanted that Southwestern look only with leather this time. I was thinking rustic, but just could not decide on the closure. I went back and forth a few times thinking I might include snaps. But in the end went with a fiber/ button closure on the back to give it that ranch, lasso rope feel.
I'm going on record to say I tried beading graphs, but graphs did not like me much. Amy how do you do this? Seriously. I think I'm just a bit too 'freeform' in the way I bead. I also cannot paint by numbers, at least the colors never match up because I follow what's in my mind's eye - never the instructions. Perhaps that's why I could never seriously consider carrying out forgery, well that and the lack of artistic talent for painting. Yeah, I'm sticking with that answer.

Thank you Christine and Therese for constantly pushing me to try new techniques, stitches and styles. I love this challenge and can't wait for the next installment. Bring it on! Be sure to check out all the other artists participating today: our hosts (Therese and Christine), Samantha, Karin, Wendy, Dagi, Lola, Paula, Karin G, Becky, Ana, Alenka, Debbie, Nelly May, LiliKrist, Sally, Maryanne, Kim and Amy.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Cyprus :: Boat Design

For years, I've had a love affair with this old Cypriot design (5th- 4th centuries B.C.) sometimes called the 'boat' design. I came across this design years ago from a replica by The Metropolitan Museum, and I have been wanting to incorporate it into a pair of earrings ever since but just hadn't found components I liked.

I love the simplicity and fluidity of this half moon shape, which has appeared in many materials such as crystal, carnelian, shades of metals; especially in copper. Perhaps the 'boat' shape comes from the area's fishing activity? That I couldn't confirm, but would make sense.

The island of Cyprus sits in the Mediterranean Sea, nestled up by Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt. This location gave it a cross-road position in the area and strategic export trade for the Mycenean people who settle on the island. But it also made it a prime location for repeated invasions through the centuries. Thus, the island was visited, invaded and talked about through the ages in many languages. Writers have called it by names such as: Kryptos (Greek for hidden), Cuprum (Latin for copper), Kerastis (fertility), Kypris (name ancient writers gave to Aphrodite; including Homer), Kypros (Greek for Henna, a plant native to North Africa) but Kypros also means copper (pre-Greek word; Etocypriot language). Just to name a few, but there are many more. 

Most attribute the naming of the island back to the copper discovered on the island during the Bronze age (2500 B.C. to 1050 B.C.), which is pretty friken old in my book. 

While I love the smooth shaped stone of the Met's design, I wanted to use a metal in my earrings. It seems more like what would have been created in Cyprus centuries ago. I also decided to use a bit of chainmaille at the top to hold the design together and give it that old world look. I included earring posts with medieval flare that I'd been hoarding for some time, but have now found the perfect home. Maybe not exactly a 'replica' of the original Cypriot earrings, but I never seem to follow instructions to the letter. That's just me.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Ombre :: Hombre

So when did ombre become such a big thing? I hadn't realized it was until my daughters were asking for clothes that were 'ombre.' I wasn't sure what it was exactly that they were asking until they explained "you know mom, it's graduated colors." As if everyone knows that. And yes, my 12-year-old used 'graduated colors' in her definition. 

But see that's the thing. I never thought of ombre having to do with color. The word always reminded me of those old Westerns. The ones with a poncho-wearing Clint Eastwood that would talk through his cigar; saying just a handful of words as he squinted at the sun.

I figured that I just must have had the definition mixed up. But when I went looking for the meaning of ombre, I found several. The classic Spanish (hombre) for 'man.'  Ok, there's my Clint Eastwood reference. But there is also another that dates back to Spain (16th Century) for a card game like the game of Whist.

So how did this definition become known in the fashion world for the graduation of color tones? Apparently that definition comes from the French for 'shade' ... which was then applied to clothes, hair or even art when using graduated colors.

I didn't even think of it as something people do to their hair until the last season of The Voice. When I saw Gwen Stefani's hair I realized that this was a style I was seeing at the office. I had noticed girls were darkening their roots leaving highlights on the ends. At first I thought it was just a messed up dye job, but then saw too many people with the same style to think it was a mistake. A quick google told me that I was simply out of date and not up on my fashion jargon for the ever popular 'ombre hair.'

So I'm not ready to be doing any 'ombre' to my hair, but I kinda like the look for beading. So I did a bit of simple peyote and just changed up the colors as I went. Then I beaded it into a strip of old jeans. I did a straight cut and wore it for a couple of days as I wanted it to fray just like we used to do in high school when we thought it was cool to have that worn in look. Yeah, I might be out of style, but if I wait long enough it comes back.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Cellini-Bernini Debate

Cellini is a stitch that I've struggled with. It just seems so wonky when I'm beading it that I'm constantly questioning if I've got the right bead size and whether I'm on to the next row? 

Recently my beady friend Linda was using a pattern that seemed more my speed ... well at least it is flat and somewhat less wonky. So it has that going for it. This actually is just straight up peyote, but you are switching the bead sizes from 6s, to 8s, to 11s, to 15s. So pretty wide range which is what makes this pattern look like Cellini. The original Cellini spiral stitch is a sculptural peyote beaded into a self-supporting tube. Kind of like a carved column, or how the stitch was named.

Benvenuto Cellini is who the stitch is named after. He is a 16th century Italian artist best known for his sculpture of Perseus holding the head of Medusa (left). Apparently the beaders who created this stitch thought the pattern looked like spiral columns they thought were in the Sistine Chapel. Virginia Blakelock and Carol Perenoud of Beadcats are said to be the beaders who named the stitch.

But here is the fun part. I then found a second post on BeadingDaily by a beader, who also studied art. She noticed that the pillars were actually the work of Gian Lorenzo Bernini who created the columns in question for the alter in Saint Peter's Basilica (right). So does that mean that we should be calling it the Bernini Spiral? I don't know about you all, but I'm going with Bernini Spiral.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Explorations in Freeform Peyote Beading

Many months ago I saw a post from Karen Williams over on her blog Baublicious. She was looking for beaders to work on freeform projects, including taking pictures through the process so she could featuring them in her new book Explorations in Freeform Peyote Beading.

I am pretty new to freeform beading, having only created a handful of designs. I thought, "sure I could work on a bracelet."  But then after talking to Karen she asked if I would be willing to create a necklace since so many people submit bracelets for freeform designs. 

I had never done a necklace, and I was just so unsure of how I would design something with such a large canvas in a freeform style. 

But then inspiration hit. I had been home visiting family in Oregon and stopped into a local glass blowing studio called Fern Hill Studio that I've mentioned a few times now on the blog. The pieces of glass I bought were cast offs from large glass pieces made at the studio like vases and bowls. But the little snips of glass I thought were perfect for cabochons. The owner let me buy a bag full of them! 

What I wanted to do with my little pieces of glass was to create a piece inspired by the bubbles that form in the surf along the Oregon coast. The waves there are rough and crashing creates a bit of foam along the shore. I love how the water swirls in the surf around the bubbles floating right next to the water's edge.

I did share a lot of photos with Karen as this design was very organic to say the least. I had an entirely different final piece in my head. I thought I'd created a short collar necklace, but it just didn't hang the way I wanted and I ripped it out. I switched to beading around brass rings, which also overwhelmed the pattern. In the end I went with a simple braiding of sari silk in a fishtail pattern. It felt more like the sea to me.

There are lots of other artists in Karen's book, and full of ideas, designs and instruction on freeform beading. It is a beautiful book that does not disappoint; including some of Karen's signature beaded sculpture pieces that are truly stunning. Be sure to check it out!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bingo, Anyone?

You gotta love when you find the Bead Girl sitting in your studio playing with beads and turns around saying, "hey mom look at this ... it's a bingo ball!"

I mean, what's not to love? It's rustic, antique looking, spins and makes noise with the beads flipping around inside. It looks kinda like the old metal bingo cage with the side crank. Those manual ones were great for getting a good turn to mix up the balls.  Oh yes, the Bead Girl would love a go with that old-style bingo cage.

But there was just one thing we were struggled with ... how exactly to cap off the ends so the letter beads didn't spill out? We tried a number of options; bead caps, large heshi beads, perhaps some messy wire wrapping? In the end we went with the knotted, weathered leather, which really seemed to suit the era.

We added some hand-made chain using silver connectors, a bit of my mom's old basting for ribbon around the back ... and there you have it. Bingo Ball fashion; Bead Girl style. I'm noticing that it might just be time for the Bead Girl to get her own logo since she's starting to create some serious designs. She has a at least two more I need to post. What do you guys think? Any suggestions as she establishes her signature labeling?

AntiquityTravelers on Etsy