The Thunderbird necklaces from my previous post have now evolved into these mosaic pendants.
Initially these started because I decided to squish all the off-cut scraps from making the Thunderbirds into some fresh raw clay to make new sheets to use for mosaics. I had yellow and orange on my table at the time so that’s what I made. Because I didn’t know how the baked scraps combined with new clay would hold together when cutting into tesserae I decided to make some simple geometric shapes. I also added some deco beads for shine and to give a contrasting texture.
So, yes, I do have a favourite child here – the yellow and orange one appears in every photo! It’s the last one I made and I like the Art Deco look. I also used some bigger off-cut chunks (from carved beads) with fewer deco beads hidden in the spaces.
The edges of the tessera are pretty rough. I could probably improve this by warming the clay before cutting, or sanding the edges, but I quite like them like this. I think it adds character. Anyhow it’s very fulfilling when all the little pieces come together and seem to fit.
When the schools closed in March and I suddenly became a full time teacher, we continued the topic that my daughter had started at school which was Native Americans. Unsurprisingly my thoughts turned to their jewellery, in particular my grandmother’s Thunderbird necklace that she bought in New Mexico in 1946.
The family legend is that she met man selling necklaces for tourists but she wanted the one he was wearing as it was far superior. He said he couldn’t possibly sell it to her because it was his Thunderbird and without it he wouldn’t be protected. However she was determined and insisted on buying the one he was wearing rather than any of the others. After some persuasion he reluctantly agreed on condition that she go with him back to his house so he could put on a new Thunderbird so that he could safely take off the one he was wearing. Based on this article, this may have been a colourful story for a silly tourist. Nevertheless she treasured it and proudly wore the necklace when she dressed to impress and it has left me with a lasting impression of the Thunderbird as a powerful symbol of protection.
Which takes us back to the start of the Coronavirus lockdown, when everyone was stunned, scared and separated. I needed a project to get me out of bed in the morning and we all needed something to make us feel safer. I decided to create a Necklace Club for the ladies in my family and send each of them a handmade necklace as a physical link between us. I chose to make polymer clay Thunderbirds in memory of my grandmother and because I wanted something with a strong visual style to unite the individual necklaces.
Before she died, my grandmother decided to send her necklace home to a museum in New Mexico so I don’t have any photographs of it. I relied on my memories of it and a google search of images which reminded me of what I remembered. There was such a variety that every pendant ended up a little bit different.
Once I had all the pendants made, my sister in South Africa did a remote calibration on them to give them each an intention of healing and protection for the wearers. Hopefully this will also cover the postal journey that some of them are still making to South Africa!
I ended up making 12 pendants and strung the necklaces according to the preferences of the individuals receiving them. Some are chokers, some are part beaded on adjustable satin cords and some are fully beaded and long enough to slip over the head.
As a bonus reference to the crazy time in which I made these, I thought this handful of faux heishi beads looked like tiny loo rolls which made me laugh. For some reason toilet rolls were a big thing here in the UK. These are my first batch and are are a bit rough but I figured out some techniques to make them better. Hopefully I’ll get a tip tutorial done about that soon.
May you and your family circles stay safe and well.
I’ve always struggled to photograph my necklaces showing their scale on a human. I’ve had a mannequin for a while, but I’ve never really known what to dress her in, and it didn’t seem right leaving her naked. Therefore I decided to give her the same treatment as my necklace display and cover her with paper patchwork.
As you can see I built in some paper mache clothing. I wasn’t worried that she’d look naked once covered in paper, but I thought it would be useful to have a neckline for judging a necklace’s length.
I monoprinted the paper using my gelli plate before tearing it into pieces which I glued on. I wanted to make something that was interesting but subtle enough to act as a background.
I haven’t quite decided if the patchwork is too distracting. Here is another necklace made with my polymer clay beads for you to consider. What do you think?
I’m not a massive fan of Halloween (I don’t like the idea of teaching kids to ask for sweeties), but my children are. Last year my daughter insisted on keeping a small squash on her windowsill until it decayed. This year, after months of nagging, I decided to make something more permanent from polymer clay.
They are hollow led tea light holders with jack-o-lantern faces. I used sketches by the children as inspiration. I tried to keep the lively wobbles from the drawings but I did need to make the edges a bit more simple.
These are mixed media. I started with a layer of gum tape paper mache, foil armatures to build up the bulges on the pumpkin, plaster bandages to give a rigid surface and finally an outer layer of polymer clay.
These took about three days to make, with drying times, and figuring out how to make the lids. Maybe by next Halloween I’ll have made a tutorial to share with you.
Just to make them extra cheesy, I used glow-in-the-dark polymer clay to outline the features.
I’ve been working on some fuchsia and lime polymer clay earrings. Here’s a selection of them (they do have partners, but I couldn’t fit them all in the photo):
My favourite pair is these green ones with a new shape bead that I like to think of as snails. I’m tempted to keep them, but I don’t wear much green. Maybe I’ll make another pair in a different colour.
I made a necklace. I like the beads, and I like the necklace but sadly I have a horrible suspicion that I’m going to dismantle it.
It’s an asymmetric necklace with a mix of different shaped beads in different sizes. It works well on the beading board, the problem is when it’s on a body…
… the square shaped beads lie horizontally instead of face on. See that pesky bead at the bottom? What do you think, is this a feature or a fail?
I like the big square beads, but I now realise the hole needs to be offset if they are to hang correctly at the bottom of a necklace. I should have remembered this from my big lentil necklace. The weight of the necklace is all wrong if I rotate it so that the square beads are on the side instead.
It works quite well as a multi-strand bracelet provided that you don’t move your hand at all. I’m trying to decide if I should take the necklace apart and use the beads to make four stacking bracelets instead.
I decided to make time to take part in the Virtual Paintout again. This is a fun project by Bill Guffey where he chooses a destination and then we use google maps to find views to paint. This month it’s Amsterdam.
“It’s Amsterdam, only bonkers” by Cate van Alphen
It was quite near the end of the month when I started, so I decided to focus on something fun rather than strictly accurate. I’ve done some messy gesso in the background on a piece of blue paper. I used paint pens and only slightly exaggerated the tilt of the buildings.
I’ve just finished a commission for a wishpot which has helped me work out some of the technical issues I’ve had with stringing them. I began making these several years ago so I’ll show you some highlights in their evolution. Apologies for the quality on the older photos, I’ve tried to fix the colour balance.
This mother of pearl effect wishpot was one of the first I made. It is strung directly on the necklace. The bead stopper can be lifted to open the wishpot. The necklace string keeps it in place when it’s being worn.
There were a few things I didn’t like about this design. Firstly the necklace needs to be thin in order for the bead lid to be opened (the stopper bead plus cord on either side needs to fit through the mouth of the pot). Also unless it is a specific commission I get stressed about choosing the length for a necklace.
For my next version, I wanted the pendant to go on a thicker kumihimo cord. Since there was no hope of this going through the opening of the wishpot, I put it on a ribbon that created a bail to hang on the necklace. I included lengths of ribbon in the necklace to link the design together. This version was better, but still not massively versatile – I couldn’t picture the ribbon working on something like a chain.
My latest necklace was for a wishpot on a mala necklace. I used beads made from imfibinga seeds. The necklace needed a specific number of beads which made it pretty long. I wanted a way to allow the necklace to be shortened without adding a clasp. My solution was to add a button toggle to the wishpot attachment.
This means the necklace can be doubled over and the wishpot used to attach the two sides together. The wishpot can now also exist independently, so for example you could pop it in your pocket or wear it on a belt loop.
The thin nylon cords still allow the pot to be opened. and the bead and macrame knotted button hole on either side keep the pieces together. Hooray! It finally feels like all the pieces of this design make sense!
My blog has been a bit quiet while I sort out a backlog of chores at home and excavate my workspace. Part of this process has been getting my jewellery listed online (it’s not entirely logical but I feel like I can’t make new stuff if there is nowhere for my existing things to go). The good news is that I have finally gotten some of my vintage teacup inspired earrings listed in my shop. I made them a few years ago, so here’s a reminder.
I have also finally completed a little tutorial video. It’s just a small tip for sanding your polymer clay when there is wire embedded in it (like for the triangle shaped pieces pictured above in the last row). It’s currently available as a preview for my Patreon subscribers, but I’ll be making it public soon.