Thursday, 31 October 2013

British Bead Awards 2013

*Insert obligatory apology for not blogging for ages here*

On Saturday 19th October I got up at a time rather earlier than I might like to on a Saturday and navigated two mainline trains and wee zip round on the London Underground to arrive at Sandown Racecourse for the Big Bead Show. The reason for my early start? My entry into the British Bead Awards 2013, run by Bead Magazine, had been selected as a finalist in the seed bead jewellery category and I was off to the awards ceremony to find out the results of the competition.

As always, the standard of the finalist pieces was amazing, covering a wide range of jewellery making techniques including beading, embroidery, polymer clay, wirework and much more. When the results of my category were announced, although I did not place in top 3, my entry - entitled 'Fallen,' was awarded a commendation by the judges. I was very pleased to receive this, especially since I had a) entered the category which received the most entries and made the final selection, and b) I only decided to make the piece I entered 12 days before the deadline!

I had made a necklace with some CRAW teardrop shapes linked to form a pendant, and suddenly had the idea to make a necklace which featured this motif in multiples.

The necklace which sparked the idea for my competition piece.

Whilst I completed my entry in 12 days, it still took a considerable amount of time to bead and I had to snatch every available minute of free time (including my London commute on the train) to keep beading teardrops. I would estimate that each teardrop in the necklace took on average around 25 minutes to bead and embellish - and there are 27 teardrops of varying sizes in the whole piece, plus 5 bezelled Swarovski rivolis and the beaded toggle clasp. I'd put an estimate of roughly 20 hours beading time on the entire necklace, although it is probably more as obviously when I got to doing the second half I had the first one to refer to for all my sizings. 

I am very happy with what I achieved in that short timescale, although naturally I can also think of things I might have done differently had I had more time to experiment. I am proud that Fallen made it to the finals and it was a pleasure to be in the same category as all the other finalists and prize winners. If you want to have a look at the all of the winning entries for this years awards, there is a brand new website at 

I had a fabulous day at the bead show (as always), catching up with beady friends and of course doing some bead shopping! 

My purchases from the day being surveyed by Beadrick Featherington.

All in all, a wonderfully enjoyable day....although it did mean I was falling asleep by 8pm after such an early start! Roll on the Big Bead Show in April 2014 :)




Monday, 3 June 2013

An Austrian, Sparkletastic, Adventure!

Hello beady folks. I wanted to write a blog post about my recent holiday to the beautiful country of Austria (my first trip abroad in 3 years due to my PhD!) and in particular, my visit to the homeland of Swarovski crystal.

The Swarovski Crystal World is in a place called Wattens, a short shuttle bus ride away from the city of Innsbruck. It is situated just behind the Swarovski factory, protected by the giant at the entrance to what can only be described as crystal heaven!

Part cave of wonders, part art exhibition...the Crystal World leads you through different rooms with themes, stories and more crystal than you've ever seen in your entire bead stash; including the amazing 'Wall' of crystal stuffed with every Swarovski element bead shape and colour you can think of and the stunning 'Crystal Dome.' 

 The full height of the Crystal Wall...not to mention a rather sizeable chandelier!

 Close up of the wall bursting at the seams with sparkle

The cool effect of being in a dome completely surrounded by crystal facets!

One of my favourite parts of the exhibition was the Crystal Stage, filled with fantastical creatures and animatronic sculptures, it left me feeling very inspired and eager to create a beadwork fantasy piece. I'm going to watch some of my favourite fantasy films to continue to keep my creative juices flowing on these ideas...Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal & The Never Ending Story. Spookily enough, when we got back to our hotel after visiting the crystal world and were sat having a hot chocolate in the dinning area, whilst I was mulling over all my fantasy based ideas and inspirations, what song should come on in the bar area...but the theme tune to The Never Ending Story film!! (A bit of a coincidence considering that that movie was released the same year I was born, some 28 years ago!)

This was my favourite piece in the crystal theatre - the 'dress' was covered in crystals in every shape and size you could possibly imagine.

Another very clever and inspiring room was the one entitled 'Reflections,' where large 3D polygons featured projected on their surface an ever changing representation of everything in the entire universe...maths, science, history, art, nature and everything in between; with beautiful colour changes and moving images, this room left me feeling both amazed and reinvigorated...I can't explain it, but I came out of that room smiling and the feeling of my spirit, which has taken a fair battering in recent months, being soothed and healed somewhat.

The final room before you exit into the remarkably mahuuusive Swarovski shop, is the Crystal Forest, featuring an amazing jellyfish complete with colour changing tendrils that draped the entire length of the room. I love the photos I got of this piece - there is only one jellyfish, but the mirrored walls created the effet of there being two, and I just kept snapping away as it went through all its colourways. I managed to put together a short sequence of these photos as an animated GIF so I hope you can get an idea of the beautiful effect created by this piece.

 I could show you soooo many more photos, but this blog post would go on forever! I will tell you that I did treat myself in the Swarovski shop - I bought a pair of beautiful tanzanite earrings that I hope to wear to my PhD graduation this summer, and a simple silver ring featuring a medium vitrail crystal star stone.

As well as those souveniers, I have come away with lots of ideas and a renewed sense of focus for the next 6 months, which after a tough previous 6 months, was just what I needed. I cannot wait to share some of these ideas with you in the weeks to come. 

I hope you have enjoyed hearing about my trip - I can wholeheartedly recommend a visit to the Crystal World for any beader or crystal addict, so if you ever get the chance to go, don't miss it!


Nicole xoxo

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

A Beady Bird In The Hand

Ooopsy, another long gap in between blog posts. One day I will get the hang of posting regularly, one day!

I'd like to share a recent project with you in this post. I wanted to invest in some new props and display stands for my craft fair set up, and decided, given that my business name is Hollybird Beads, that I wanted to buy one of those ornamental wire bird cages to hang jewellery from to add interest and draw peoples' attention. I found one for a reasonable price and bought some wired paper flowers to wrap around the bars to pretty it up a little. The one thing my birdcage was lacking though, was a bird.

Having hunted around for a small ready made bird and not been able to find one, I decided to go ahead and try and make my own. Thus the challenge to create a beaded bird began. 

A search of the internet found this tutorial and pattern for a fabric bird and so I embarked on first creating a fabric base out of ultrasuede on which to embroider. 

Pinning the pieces together ready for sewing...

The finished form - note, I had rather a bit of trouble with the ultrasuede being relatively thick...and had to resort to getting my pliers out to pull the head out through the small hole at the bottom of his tail to turn the form inside out to hide the stitching!

 Then the embroidery started - I definitely 'winged' it quite a bit with this piece. If I make another I would definitely draw out my patterns on the form first before starting embroidering.


The finished bird in the hand...several days work in short bursts, I couldn't tell you an exact time it took to make. I sewed 2 large beads onto the underbelly in order to allow me to thread some wire through to attach to the perch on the birdcage.

I love my beady bird, who has been named Beadrick Featherington. I hope to make another (I've plenty of ideas for modifications after my first attempt) at some point...well it would be rude if he didn't have a friend!

 Beadrick has been getting up to quite a bit of he is inspecting my purchases from the Big Bead Show at Sandown last month.

He's also been out exploring in the garden...

I suspect Beadrick might have many more adventures in between adorning my craft fair displays. I hope you have enjoyed seeing how he was created.



Monday, 25 March 2013

First Beadweaving Tutorial Released!

Things have been a bit hectic of late, but I'm back at the blog to make an exciting announcement. I've finally managed to find the time to write, illustrate and release my very first self-published beadweaving tutorial!

My first tutorial, available in my Etsy shop here, is for my crystal 'Gazania' flower necklace. I love this design; it came together so easily upon having the original idea and I have since enjoyed making lots of them in different colourways, and have sold a fair few online and at fairs too. This sparkling pendants don't require too much in terms of supplies - a small amount of size 15 and size 11 seed beads, plus some firepolished crystals, and are suitable for intermediate beaders who have had experience of doing circular brick stitch and right angle weave.

I am hopeful that this tutorial is just the start. I've several other designs that I would love to turn into tutorials - all I need is the weather to stop being so crazy and awful so I will be able to get good quality step by step photos! 

I really hope that people will enjoy my Gazania tutorial - and if you do have a go at one, I'd love to see photos of your versions, it's so exciting to see my designs on other peoples' bead mats and see what colour combinations they have chosen. If you aren't a beader, then I have several ready made Gazanias in my Folksy shop, including the femine rose pink version below. Alternatively, I am always happy to create a customised one to reflect your own colour choices.

That's all for this post. I've got my first craft fair of 2013 on the 20th April, so I really need to get cracking on new stock. I'm off to make a list of what items I am low on and decide what other new pieces I want to make for this event; I've got a new necklace design featuring pressed glass leaves on my bead mat too.



Monday, 21 January 2013

OTTBS Pendant a Week Challenge - Week 3

Another slightly late OTTBS pendant a week challenge blog post this week. The weather here in the UK has been decidedly wintery this last week and although I finished this week's pendant on Saturday, I couldn't actually get outside to photograph it until this morning as itsnowed all day on Sunday.

Another version of my new Tudor Rose necklace design is this week's pendant. This one is the 'House of York' white rose, featuring frosted silver-lined crystal petals, metallic moss green leaves and a stunning crystal ab Swarovski rivoli centre - check out the blue/gold colour flash!

The photos of this one aren't the best as the light outside wasn't too good, plus anything with white beads in is a pain in the bum to photograph well. I think I will experiment with it on a black background and see if that works out better. Once I get some slightly better quality photos then this version of the design will go into my Folksy shop. 


I think I really need to to a red version of this design as well, but I also want to try some other new ideas as part of this weekly challenge too, so I might not get round to a red one for a few weeks (I do have the perfect rivoli for the centre of it though!) I am thinking that since Valentine's day is not too far away, I might try and create something 'hearty' for week 4.




Monday, 14 January 2013

OTTBS Pendant a Week Challenge - Week 2

A little bit late posting this one. I did finish this piece during week 2 of the Operation Tackle That Bead Stash weekly challenge...but I hadn't managed to put in on a necklace chain or take decent photos. 

This is a brand new, original design from me. I ordered, as part of my prize winnings from the British Bead Awards, some teeny little crystal rondelles in a couple of colours, and as I had a few other types of rondelle lurking in my stash, decided to try and design something to include them.

The resulting pendant is actually one of those rare occassions where a sketch on paper actually turns out remarkably similar when translated into beads! Apart from a few size changes on some of the seed beads, the main part of this pendant was as I had drawn it, but it was only when it came to adding the final edging touches that it suddenly evolved into its flower form and gained a name - Tudor Rose.

With a central Swarovski rivoli in medium vitrail (one of my favorite Swarovski colours), this little pendant is beaded in galvanised silver grey and metallic purple seed beads, with half silver coated crystal rondelles. For the chain, I just used some simple trace chain, which has a slightly textured finish, and added in a few wire wrapped crystals in the same medium vitrail colour for a little bit extra in the glitter department.

This one is going to be mine to keep, but I've already ordered some more rivolis (I only had the one in the right size) to create some more. With the name Tudor Rose, I am itching to make a white one and a red one, but I will have to see what colours speak to me once the rivolis arrive next week, as they are colours I have not bought before. I'd like to do a tutorial for this design too, but I suspect that that will have to go and join the other 'tutorials to do' list for once I've finished doing the corrections to my PhD thesis.

Hope you like this week's pendant...I've got to think about this week's new creation now!


Monday, 7 January 2013

OTTBS Pendant a Week Challenge - Week 1

 As part of the online beading group Operation Tackle That Bead Stash (where members share their beading and "attempt" to use up their sizeable bead stashes, rather than be tempted to add to them!), I am joining in their weekly year-long challenge for 2013. There were 3 options; create either a ring, earrings or pendant each week for a year. 

Since I find necklaces are one of the most popular items in my online shops, I've decided to go for the pendant challenge. I'm hoping I can play with the designs of other beaders as well as coming up with some new necklace designs of my own.

So, without further ado, I present my pendant for week 1 of the challenge. This is one of my own designs, which I came up with towards the end of last year, featuring the new Czech glass spike beads. I sold the original black and silver version I made just before Christmas and had been wanting to make one for myself to keep. 

My 'Athena Blossom' necklace is beaded in haematite and amethyst gunmetal seed beads and features silver Swarovski crystal bicones, purple iris Czech firepolish crystals, and of course a central matte silver glass spike. I am hoping that in the near future I'll be able to have a tutorial available for this design. I've also just finished beading another one for the shop in copper, gold and sapphire blue, but it needs to go on a gold chain, and typically that is the one metal colour that I only have the teeniest bit of chain left in (nowhere near enough to make a necklace chain with), so it'll have to wait until I can order some more before it goes on sale.

I really like this design - it also has a  'pretty bottom' so to speak, which I am wondering if I could work into another design.

Now I have to get think of what I want to do as my pendant for week 2!