I am still working through my 24 one ounce blocks of polymer clay. Here’s the next stage of my progress.
My primary reason for doing the challenge was to give myself a starting place to get making beads again. Unfortunately I was finding that trying to record the steps as tutorial videos was hindering my progress, particularly when the children were home due to lockdown (again). They are very noisy during the day so I’d have to wait till the evening to begin and by that point I wasn’t feeling very sparkly for chatting while I make. Also it was discouraging me from just experimenting as it’s hard to explain what you are doing when you don’t know yet!
Instead I have decided to crack on with the making and show you my progress as I go. If you are really interested in any of the beads I make, let me know in the comments and I may try to do a dedicated tutorial for that. I have at least one video still to edit, so that will turn up eventually.
I’ve got more beads to show you but I’ll save those for another day. I hope you are well and making progress with your projects.
P.S. If you’d like to set yourself a sample challenge, here’s my earlier post with the guidelines I’m using.
I have had my head down a bit what with second (and now third) lockdowns in England and preparing for Christmas. I don’t like to start my “resolutions” on the 1st of January as I find it’s still too dark and cold and depressing to try deprive myself of sweeties at that point. However I had reached the point of feeling the time had come to start improving my eating habits and sleep patterns when my sister sent me a link to this beautiful video.
The bit that struck me was when she talked about it being okay to have less energy in the winter and that you shouldn’t force yourself to try to feel the same way that you do in summer. Having grown up in a humid subtropical climate in South Africa, I don’t know that I would ever be able to embrace the cold the way she does, but it does look beautiful from the comfort of my duvet in a centrally heated house. I think in these times it’s okay to have a need to comfort eat and want to hide (for a while), so I forgave myself for being withdrawn and sat down to start making beads again.
I was also inspired by the way she spoke about light. This is important to me since I derived the name Fulgorine from “fulgor” which means “dazzling brightness, the light of the sun” because I want my work to be bright and joyful. I try to look on the bright side of life and focus on the positives but sometimes it takes an effort to remember to do it!
I really enjoyed making things again and I also have an idea for a new challenge that I hope others will be inspired to join in with. I’m working on a video of my own to explain it, so hopefully I’ll be able to share that soon.
I hope you all had a happy Christmas and are looking forward to a bright New Year.
P.S. I have started a mailing list! I’m not ready to send out regular messages yet, but if you would like to sign up now for when I do, here’s the link.
The scrap ends of my rainbow cane had some lovely colours, so I couldn’t look at them sitting on my board for long without wanting to make something new with them. I decided to make some of my round natasha beads. I mixed some the bright colours with white to get some tonal variation in the finished beads.
These beads are ridiculously complicated to make, involving an extruded cane cut into cubes, assembled into bigger cubes, then cut into natasha beads and then made round. Halfway through I realised I liked the cube format too, so after much deliberation I decided to keep most of them half formed.
I’m still not sure which I prefer…
I also used Fiona Abel-Smith’s tutorial to make another extruded cane with the rest of the scraps and a few others lurking on my table. I like the vintage granny square look that these have. I textured the surface of these beads to add to the textile impression.
Having finally finished my bracelet I was inspired to look at what the current Art Bead Scene challenge is. The inspiration this time is fireworks.
I made a pair of earrings using ceramic charms made by Sharleen Newland from Shaterra. (I’ve been hoarding these for a few years now and it looks like she now works with leather rather than ceramic.) Also, although you can’t see them, the jump rings are also significant because they came from a goodie bag of components sold to raise funds for Breast Cancer on behalf of Liz Welch who sadly passed away a few years ago.
These were pretty frustrating to make with lots of undoing and redoing. I’m not entirely convinced that the earrings show off the charms to best effect. I think the tassels obscure rather than enhance the sunny burst, but within the context of the inspiration image they work tolerably. After I was finished it occurred to me that there might be more pop if the beads at the end of the tassels were gold instead of blue, but I didn’t have the energy to start again (again).
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 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’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!