Friday, August 10, 2012

Colour - Taking Baby Steps with Art Beads

Colour. It is a magical thing. It can evoke emotion, memories; it can set the mood or tone...and it can be intimidating. Oh yes - very intimidating. I remember when I started seed beading as a teen in the 90s, I stuck to monochromatic colour schemes. Colour mixing was just too scary for me! Now that I have been designing, teaching and selling jewellery for the past 9 years, it's something I feel more confident embracing but it has taken time. Brandi's colour posts are always (always) very inspiring to me and I found Heather's recent post on colour so interesting as well but I thought I would share with you a little about how I began expanding my colour palette, and a trick that still often works for me. 

I have always loved colour, photos of me from an age where I could choose my own clothes will attest to that! I spent my teens and early 20s wearing multi-coloured eye-liner and it's not uncommon to see me with colourful liquid eyeliner ticks to this day (I'm 31. I can still get away with it I tell myself...). Somehow, putting colour together in the way I dress is always something I've felt confident in doing. But in jewellery making, I suddenly became all 'matchy-matchy'. I lost my boldness of throwing different colours and shades together as I did with my wardrobe. Monochromatic colour schemes are soothing and definitely pretty, but can be (sometimes) a little flat and dull, especially if you work with them all the time.

When I moved onto wire work, somehow the bigger beads made colour mixing a little easier. But it wasn't really until I discovered art beads, beginning with lampwork art, about 6 years ago, that my colour palette and colour choices really expanded.

Let's take this focal from Mindy MacGregor of Moogin Beads.

It's beautiful as it is. You look at it and see wonderful composition, gorgeous colours, lovely shading, and do not question the mixture of colours here. In the most simple colour terms (I'm not afraid of simple!), we have blue, red and yellow, with even a little green. When I started to work with a bead like this, I would see how the artist fearlessly mixed colour, and how IT WORKED. It also gives an idea of colour proportion - mainly blue, with quite a bit of red, a touch of yellow and a hint of green. Although having seen these colours together - having held these colours in my hand! - I would then try mixing them in different ways and proportions for other projects.  So I would sit down with my beads, and pull out beads that matched. They didn't have to match precisely but closely. And once I had my colours in front of me, I could create and play safely with my little bead palette, knowing that these colours did indeed go. If I have art beads in colours that are perhaps unusual for me, this is still where I will start. Once you start working like this, you will find your colour confidence will grow hugely. I store my (non-art) beads in boxes according to size now, as I love to see the colours mixed together and pull out the palettes that either I conjure up by mixing the beads on my table in front of me.

Here are some more art beads that could challenge you to be brave with colour:

Van Gogh-inspired rondelles from Humblebeads


Michal S

Hodgepodge Arts

Pixie Willow

I don't have wonderful computer skills personally, and would not know where to start in pulling colours out of a palette in a computer programme! Although it is extremely helpful when Brandi or Design Seeds do this for me :-) and I do still frequently make use of their wonderfully generous output when designing. But I can create my own palettes using the beads themselves. It's not fancy, but give it a try if you find colour intimidating, or if you want to break out of a colour rut. Pull out your stash of colourful art beads and they will do the work for you.

Rebecca is a Scottish jewellery designer and singer, currently living in Manchester, England. You can read more about beads and singing at her blog, and see more of her jewellery at


CinLynn Boutique said...

Those beads are awesome!! I love all the colors in them but would find it challenging! Always up for a challenge! :)

Heidi Post said...

That's pretty much the same way I operate. You know I can get a bit OCD with my matching. My main problem is if the artbead/focal is monochromatic. When I have to make up a color scheme to go with something like that, I can become truly discombobulated.

FYI, you can keep wearing colored liquid eyeliner for years to come. I still do ;)