Wednesday, 25 January 2012

BTW - What's On My Bead Mat, 25th Jan 2012

It's Wednesday again, and therefore that time of the week for me to show you a snapshot of what I'm working on at the moment. Here's what my bead mat looks like today.

As you can see, the floral motif that I was working on last week is finished and I'm really pleased with it. A friend has asked me if it would work as a necklace, so I'm going to have a go at making it a pendant and seeing if it hangs's a fairly big beadwork flower and the crystals give it a reasonable weight too. I have plans to make more of these and hopefully write a tutorial on it for other beaders to have a go too.

The WIP I have on the go is another right angle weave (RAW) bracelet in the same style as this silver and purple 'Rita' bracelet I made recently.

As you can see, I've started this new version off in glass pearls that are a lovely teal/seafoam green colour and some transparent teal seed beads. I've almost finished the base and then will be embellishing it with some matching teal and turquoise fire-polished crystals. Hopefully I'll have finished it by the time BTW comes around again.

What's on your bead table today?


Thursday, 19 January 2012

BTW - what's on my beading mat today

Excuse the poor quality was taken on my camera phone and in not so brilliant lighting. I'm going to try and join in on 'Bead Table Wednesday' every week if possible (i.e. if I remember to take photos!) So here is my first glimpse at what was sitting on my beading mat as of yesterday.

In the bottom left is my first 'Bead Masters 2012' project, Rachel Nelson-Smith's 'Groove' earrings from her Bead Riffs book. This is very different from the way I usually bead, so it's been a challenge even though the project is a small one. There'll be proper pictures for the blog once I've finished them - this one just needs a little bit more embellishment added so I've not far to go.

In the top right is an idea I've been playing around with this week. It's getting there towards a design I am happy with, but I have a feeling I might need some 3mm firepolished crystals instead of the 4mm ones I've been using. We'll see once I've finished a whole motif - I might change my mind once it's complete.

So that's what's on my bead table this week - what's on yours?


Monday, 16 January 2012

New Beads...and My Aims for 2012

I hope the start of 2012 has been a good one for you all. I must admit I'm still trying to get back into the swing of 'normal' life (or as normal as things get around here!) after being away for 3 weeks over Christmas and New Year. 

I spent quite a bit of time this weekend trying to sort out my bead boxes - having taken beads to play with whilst away and having been busy with custom orders at the end of last year, my beads are in quite a muddle so I am keen to get them back into some logical order. Tidying has reminded me of beads that I've got in my stash that I'd forgotten I had, so I think that's some positive to be said for having a clear up!

I've received a few packets of bead post this week (the best kind of post IMHO) so I thought I'd share with you what I've bough lately and what I might like to create with these beads.

I'd run out of a few key colours of seed beads over Christmas, so I re-stocked these, plus I always like to try out some new colours (you can't always tell online whether you are going to like or love a colour as different monitors/cameras etc don't always show shades as they actually appear). Here's the selection of seed beads I plumped for - there's a fair bit of white/crystal, but there are also some unusal bronze-lined sapphire ab beads which are a lovely muted opalescent kind of colour and even some dark metallic red beads (I don't ususally 'do' red!).

I also bought some new accent beads - a selection of different glass shapes from a new bead supplier I hadn't used before. I'm really pleased with what I bought (especially the violet glass flowers) so will definitely go back to them again.
And of course I couldn't buy new beads without treating myself to some Swarovski sparkle including this whopping 27mm rivoli - such a gorgeous blue/purple colour...

...and, inspired by a stunning emerald necklace that was in the recent auction of Elizabeth Taylor's jewellery collection, some emerald coloured crystal cabochons - I am a bit in love with these, so expect to see them in an ultra glam sparkly necklace sometime in the future!

I don't like doing 'New Years Resolutions' as such (I always used to say mine was to stop biting my nails...which I did do eventually I might add, but not really as a New Years Resolution in the end) but I have a few things jewellery-wise that I hope to achieve in the next year that I want to write here.

1.)  Develop my metal working skills - I hope to take a course at Holts Academy once my current studies are finished with the aim of making a career change of direction in to jewellery making full time

2.) Self-publish at least one beadweaving tutorial of my own design - I've already started on this one over Christmas so hopefully this one won't take me too long to achieve. 

3.) Make some more 'bridal' pieces - I made bridal jewellery for a close friend last year and I'd love to do more bridal work. I want to make up some 'sample' ideas for bridal jewellery that I could have on my website to show people the sorts of thing I could do

4.) Make at least one 'big showpiece design' - this might well end up having something to do with those lovely emerald cabs I pictured above, but having completed two 'big' necklaces last year, I'd like to create at least one big piece this year...not necessarily as a competition entry, but something to challenge me

5.) Continue to come up with new designs and push myself out of my comfort zone - I've just started designing something in RAW which is a stitch I never use. It's not that I don't like it, my brain just until now refuses to 'think' in RAW - but the other night a flash of an idea popped into my head and I've been playing around with it the past few days and think it has potential.

6.) Learn from the 'masters' - I've got lots of books now by various beadweaving heroines of mine, but have never actually made any of the projects in them, just used them for inspiration and to drool over. I want to start actually doing some projects from these books to see how these beadweavers really think about beading and hopefully push myself in terms of what I design and how I use the different stitches

I think that's it for the moment...or at least that's a lot to be going on with for a year so far! Have you made any beady resolutions or set yourself any goals for this year? I'd love to hear what you've set your sights on - perhaps we can hold each other's hands/bug each other so we try and stick to our plans!?



Monday, 2 January 2012

Bye Bye 2011...Hello 2012 - a review

I hope everyone has been enjoying a break over the Christmas and New Year holidays. I spent a much needed 2 weeks back in Essex with my family over Christmas, before getting the train up to Scotland to stay with my boyfriend and his family for another week over New Year. Soon it'll be time to get on the train once more and return to Cambridge (and start really cracking on with writing up my PhD thesis!).

I've seen quite a few review posts on other crafters' blogs and I think it's a great idea to look back over what has happened creatively and the things that you have made in the past year as sometimes it's easy to forget how far you've come in 12 months. Here's my review of Hollybird Beads' 2011...


In January it seems I was in to bracelets with lots of fringing and embellishment. I created two pieces, 'Amethyst Dawn' and 'Twilight' which showcased this technique, dripping with faceted glass, Swarovski crystals, pearls and semi-precious gemstones. 'Amethyst Dawn' has since found a new home, but 'Twilight' is still available on Folksy.

Amethyst Dawn


Love was clearly in the air in February, when I created this dusky lilac bracelet embellished with tiny glass heart beads and finished with a beautiful lampwork glass heart focal bead created by lampwork artist Julie Fountain of Lush Lampwork.

My Heart's Desire bracelet

This was the month in which I fulfilled a beady ambition of mine by taking a trip down to the wonderful Stitchncraft bead shop in Dorset (how I wish I lived nearer so I could visit all the time!) to take a beadweaving masterclass with one of my beady heroines Laura McCabe (who is as lovely as she is talented). Here's a photo of what I finished during the class - a fully-functioning locket complete with Swarovski crystal rivoli lid.

In April I was asked to do some commissioned work to create bracelets for a friend to give as a gift to her bridesmaids on her wedding day. We settled on my 'Ice Queen' design, which I love with it's frosty silver/white and purple colour scheme. Each one is slightly different as I embellish at random.

The month of May saw the emergence of the first incarnation of my popular 'Halo' necklaces. I wanted to create some beadwoven jewellery that was both statement, but not too over the top to cater for those who prefer a more simple style of jewellery. I've made lots of these necklaces in all sorts of colours but I still love them as much as I did when I first started beading them. Here's the one which I kept for myself!

In June I was still beading lots of 'Halo' necklaces, but I also created this design, which I named 'Azul' after the gorgeous aquamarine bead colours I used. This design has in recent months lead to a custom order in which I created a full set of jewellery to match this necklace. The original has since found a new home and I had a lovely email to let me know how happy the person who placed a custom order was with my work - it's always so nice to hear that people like what I have made.
In July I was busy beading a competition entry piece to meet the entry deadline - so busy in fact that I even ended up taking my beading on the train on my daily commute in order to get it finished on time! This took up most of my beading time in July, but I did also start work on this bracelet 'Serafina' using some beautiful metallic pewter-grey seed beads. This piece has found a new home, but I will definitely be making another in 2012 - I think I want to use my rose-gold seed beads for that one!

Serafina bracelet


August was an exciting month for me when I found out my 'Flora Metallica' necklace had been selected as a finalist in the London Jewellery School's annual student jewellery competition. After the final judging, Flora was awarded 2nd place, which won me a gift voucher towards a class at the jewellery school (I chose to do beginner's wax carving and had a fantastic time). I am very proud of this necklace as it was my first 'big' piece of beadwork - taking over 20 hrs to design, test and make. The original has a permanent home with me (sentimental value!) but I would always be happy to create another (or a similar one in another colourway) as a custom order. 


Flora Metallica necklace


September saw the second incarnation of my 'Halo' necklace, with the addition of some dangling tassels of chain for extra movement. This design has also been very popular and sold out at the end of 2011 - fortunately I have already started beading more of them in new colours for 2012!
'Halo' in the 'Metallica' colourway

October was another exciting month for Hollybird Beads as I found out that my 'Flora Argenta' necklace had been selected as a finalist for the British Bead Awards in the 'Crystals' category. Although in the final judging I didn't come away with a prize, I still got to see my necklace on display at Bead magazine's 'Big Bead Show' at Sandown racecourse. I will have to start thinking soon about my entry for 2012s competition!

Novemeber was an extremely busy month - I had a stall booked at a craft fair, the Made-It Market, for the 26th of November, so every bit of spare time I had was spend beading furiously in order to build up stock. I created several new designs during this month, including my favourite, the 'Pearl Starflower' series. The fair was a great success - I sold lots of my work and got to hear customers and browsers alike compliment me on my designs in person. I've already booked to do the same craft fair again next year as it was so well organised.

The last month of 2011 was spent mostly working on custom orders - bridesmaid jewellery, Christmas gifts etc. I hope that all those who received a piece of Hollybird Beads jewellery as a gift this Christmas are happy with what they received and perhaps they will become new customers in 2012. I've been starting to re-stock my shops and hope to have lots of new designs in the next 12 months. I've also started work on creating a tutorial for one of my designs which I hope to release in the not too distant future. 

I hope you've enjoyed my review of the Hollybird Beads year and wish you a wonderful 2012!