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!
I wrote about my rag rug a couple of months ago. I must admit that it has lost momentum a bit now that I have mostly worked out the rest of the pattern, but I’m still working on it. Here is the latest progress:
A few years ago I made a Bead Habitat. You may have noticed that all the pictures are fairly tightly cropped. This is because I hadn’t finished the edges.
I had intended to frame it as a picture to go on the wall, but my mother objected, saying that it was too tactile for that and needed to be explored closely rather than hung from a wall. After that it got buried under all the debris on my beading table.
As part of my recent tidying, I came across it again, and decided to finish it. I’ve done a bead edging and a backing fabric to hide my workings. I had to try really hard not to embellish the back too!
I’m not entirely sure what it is. It’s a kind of sculptural, 3D painting, abstract, mini landscape, ornament… thing. It’s purely decorative and quite small, so I’m thinking of it as “coffee table jewellery”.
It’s a mixed media piece including some of my polymer clay beads and components, silk covered wire, embroidery and glass beads on fabric.
Let me know what you think it is. Sometimes feel that I don’t make these things, I’m just there when it happens. 🙂
It’s been a while since my last blog, so here’s a look at my current project. It’s a proddy rag rug. Inspired by hours looking at the rugs in Craftworkshop, I decided to give this a try since I have a lot of scrap fabric.
Rag rug in progress
Of course I didn’t actually look at any tutorials, I just looked at the rugs in the shop and guessed how they were done. I’m using scraps of fleece fabric and a knitting needle for the prodding. I’m not using a frame, but perhaps I should be, since it’s curling a bit on the back. I suspect my scraps are a bit densely packed too, but I think it will be ok since there is a recess at my front door which I am making this to fit into. I’ll just jam it in and stomp it flat when I’m done.
Back of rug
I’m doing an abstract design, just planning it as I go. It’s like a very slow motion doodle and is strangely addictive. Often I find it helps keep me interested if I don’t plan things out too fully. It’s also satisfying finding a way to recycle my scraps of fabric.
If you’d like to see a pro making one, here’s a nice video:
And this pdf tutorial even gives instructions for making the tools you will need.
Update: Here’s a more recent photograph with further progress on my rug.
My husband’s Christmas party this year was a masquerade ball so he asked me to make a mask for him. We decided on something inspired by the Green Man.
Green Man mask by Cate van Alphen
The base of the mask is paper mache (I used layers of gum tape) with a final decorative layer of my mono printed papers torn into little pieces. The leaves and acorns are polymer clay and there is a foil backed glass gem in the center. I also sprinkled in a few acrylic flat backs for some Christmas bling.
It was a fun project. I’m tempted to make some more masks although I’m not quite sure what to do with the finished products since I find masks pretty creepy.