Each week one of our contributors gives you a sneak peek into their studio, creative process or inspirations. We ask a related question of our readers and hope you'll leave comments! As an incentive, we offer a prize each week to encourage you to use that keyboard and tell us what you think. The following week a winner is chosen at random from all eligible entries. And here are the results from last week!
Congratulations to Carolyn of Carolyn's Creations!
You've won a $20.00 gift certificate to Mary Harding's Etsy shop.
Please Email Mary to claim your prize!
Hello everyone! Happy August. And welcome to the latest goings-on in my studio! The last few months seem to have flown by and it's almost impossible to believe that it's August already.
For nearly the entire month of June, I was working on a special project. For a short time, I offered my 'weenie beads' (teeny tiny lampwork spacer beads) as a made-to-order item in my Etsy shop. As you can see here, in the final 'group photo', I made a LOT of weenie beads. There were 90 sets altogether.
I absolutely LOVED the experience of making these beads (well... ok... about 95% loved - there were a few moments of despair, as anyone who has done production work can probably identify with...) and in the end, there were many happy Uglibeads devotees, so it was a worthwhile challenge in the art of dedication. Nonetheless, after a month spent making weenie beads, I was ready to move on to some new work.
And when I say ready, I mean really, really, really ready.
I had a little stack of special projects waiting, and a huge backlog of new ideas that I couldn't wait to explore. All my new bead ideas had to be put on hold a little while longer, while I prepared for my first ever craft show at the end of July, which, I'm happy to report was a lot of fun and a hugely rewarding experience. I enjoyed delving deep into the making of my amulet necklaces, and this photo really captures the spirit of my studio for the entire month of July. Bits and pieces - everywhere.
You're probably thinking, 'Oh Julie.... that is NOTHING. You should see MY studio!' Just keep in mind - I have to clear this entire work surface - completely - every night, since it is where I torch, where I make jewelry, and where I do all my administrative work on the computer.
Since the craft show, I've been busy preparing to join my former classmates for our 20 year high school reunion on beautiful Vancouver Island, British Columbia (Canada!). In fact, I'm here right this very minute, in the middle of the forest, looking out over the Pacific Ocean.
I did have a very short time to work on some new beads before we left home, and I knew exactly what I wanted to make. Reflecting back on my time spent here on the West coast of Canada, images of the forest and the water came rushing back, and I decided to revisit a favorite series of beads I had made in the past - the 'Boreal Forest' series:
The colors and organic nature of these beads were originally inspired by a beautiful strand of turquoise stones that I had seen on Pinterest. Honestly, what did we do before Pinterest!? I'm inspired by a lot of things in my work, but I have to say - at the top of my list is the incredible colors and patterns in natural stones (turquoise, lapis, and amber especially).
That original inspiration set the wheels in motion, but as the series progressed, I suddenly felt transported to Canada's wilderness. It's a beautiful country, and here we have awe-inspiring mountainscapes, deep green forests, moss and lichen growing on starkly beautiful rock formations... flowing streams, cool ocean waters, and an endless sky.
When I looked at these beads, there was something about the feel of fresh, pure air filling your lungs... The crunch of dry pine needles under your feet as you walk...
The story began to tell itself, and they became the 'Boreal Forest' beads. Early on, every set was named after a tree that grows in the Canadian wilderness - Jack Pine, Black Spruce, and so on. And then, (when I ran out of names of trees...) our wildlife - such as Ermine, Mink, and Timberwolf.
They've been some of my all-time favorites, bringing back many special memories of the past, and drawing on dreams of future encounters with the wild.
I say often that one of the most rewarding parts of my job is seeing my beads put to use, and I've been fortunate to work with fabulous designers who did wonderful things with these beads. I wanted to share one or two with you!
First, a gorgeous bracelet by Janine Lucas of Esfera Jewelry. She used a single 'boreal forest' bead, along with a polymer clay rose from Leah Curtis of Beady Eyed Bunny, prayer beads, and a large kyanite nugget.
Next, a stunning pair of earrings by Lindsay Philipson of Precious Violet. Here she used a pair of my bicone beads from the 'boreal forest' series, with polymer clay leaves by artist Helen Backhouse.
My urge to reconnect with these particular beads came at a perfect time. A friend that I've had the good fortune of visiting with with here at the reunion, after 20 years, had asked me to design some special jewelry as a surprise gift for his wife. He was hoping for something a little west-coast inspired, a little bohemian, one-of-a-kind, unique and of course - special.
When I revisit a design from the past, my goal is never to reproduce it, but to build on what had come before... bringing new knowledge, inspiration, and perspective to the process.
As I prepared to make these beads, I pulled out all the same colors of glass I had used previously, with a few new twists in mind.
As a start, I was able to reduce the size of some of the earring pairs into the teeny tiny range. I know that many designers find earring pairs in a small size to be very versatile. After all the weenie bead practice, what was once a major technical challenge seemed effortless! Yes!!!! Hard work always pays off in ways you don't expect.
I also experimented with adding some fine silver dots to the surface of the beads. Although these beads are fantastic with brass and copper, the silver tones complement the cool turquoises and browns so well.
A new project always calls for new supplies, right? Right. So I visited my favorite bead store and treated myself to a gorgeous strand of turquoise to complement the beads I had made. This is the first strand of real stone beads I've ever purchased, and I must say that when I got home I held these in my hands admiring them for much longer than was strictly necessary.
Last week in her Inside the Studio post, Mary asked whether working in series was something that you enjoyed. And for myself, it's absolutely essential to my process. If you're the same way, you know that you may work on something for a period of time, and the story comes to a satisfying conclusion. You are ready to move on. But there are other stories and explorations that you return to again and again. For me, the 'boreal forest' series is in that category.
As I walked through the woods here yesterday (which is not in the Boreal, but rather the coast forest region of Canada), I looked around to see what new inspiration I could gather - for the next time I have the urge to revisit these beads.
I think many artists (perhaps especially those of us making beads and jewelry) are highly detail oriented. We must look as closely as possible to examine colors and textures that could be incorporated into our work.
Although this is an 'Inside the Studio' post, in my work, there is no dividing line between 'inside' and 'outside' the studio. Yes, the actual making of beads goes on inside, but some of the most important creative work goes on when I step beyond the familiarity of my space into a new environment. I've been feeling so lucky these past few days to have the chance to take in some fresh inspiration. I've been energized by so many moments that have restored my creative spirit - not the least of which has been visiting with some of the most special people in my life.
Making beautiful things is a journey of the soul, and I think that our souls long to feel connected to the Earth, and to each other - to feel peaceful and grounded - so that we are able to translate our stories into tangible objects.
At the end of the forest path, we came to this view, looking out on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. I took some deep breaths, just trying to take it all in.
I spent the rest of the afternoon reconnecting with old friends, while I scooped up treasures from the sand - sea glass, beach rocks, driftwood... the seeds of many future projects, no doubt.
Now, my question for you: Tell me about whether the 'story' is an important part of your work. Do you like to name your pieces or a series of work? When you see a bead or a piece of jewelry that you'd like to purchase, does the story or the name help you to feel a connection to it?
Leave a comment below with your thoughts, and a winner will be randomly selected next week to receive a special focal bead, custom made for you (you may choose your preferred shape) from my 'boreal forest' series.
Thanks for joining me as I savored this rare opportunity to get 'outside the studio'!
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e t s y : www.uglibeads.etsy.com
i n s t a g r a m : @jules_sontag