Friday, August 7, 2015

Inside the Studio with Julie of Uglibeads!

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'!



f a c e b o o k :
i n s t a g r a m : @jules_sontag


baymoondesign said...

I do think that the story is important. I have to have an inspiration usually from the water or a blog challenge to create a piece of jewelry or bead so why not share the inspiration and the story. I feel it helps to connect you with others.

Karen Z said...

Many of my favorite jewelry & bead artists share a 'story'... since I find all parts of the creative process fascinating, the stories do, indeed, make a connection for me and definitely enhance my interest and enjoyment of the piece. On the other hand, I'm a great fan of serendipity--so random creativity is equally fascinating! In the end, the creation speaks to me in its own voice. Story or no story.

Deb Fortin said...

Love your boreal series of beads , those colours just sing their song to me so beautifully.

I really admire those who have just the right words to describe their works. It adds a glimpse into their artistic soul.

I have trouble with naming MY finished pieces. My labels always seem so trite or forced, so I usually don't name them. but there are times when it does all come together and those are special moments and pieces for me.

Saraccino said...

All (okay no, most) of my work has to have a story. That is what makes me create beads as well as jewelery. A feeling, an athmopshere, images in my head, a story they tell.. this is what draws me to the work of bead artist as well as jewelery artist... A piece has to connect with me on an emotional level. I have to be drawn into the piece itself.

In the end there is a lot of pretty "stuff". Looks good but it is soulless, just pretty and for me boring. I even have a lot jewelery myself that I wore a lot years (decades) and now I look at it and it feels empty. The pieces I have that tell a story, they are not pretty only, they are beautiful. These pieces are the one I still love even decades later.

I think jewelery fills a lot of different desires and has (depending on the persons, culture, society...) different purposes. There is stuff you have to wear to belong to a certain group (work, social groups...) and we may even switch these groups quite often: Wearing different things at work, at our grandparents home, going out with friends... to display a certain wealth... to just be a fitting drop of colour for the whole outfit... whatever.

But one desire and purpose is also to reflect the person, to reflect myself, who I am. Something very tribal but still also something that seems to grow in a world filled with storyless massproducts.

The story makes all the difference for me. It may only be that my little sister made it as a child, I may have found an object at a special place and moment, I know the creation process... finally to all the emotions inside of me while creating.

The story is not the end product. It is the way undergone.

Wendy said...

I struggle with the concept of a story in my work. To me, my jewellery is pretty but that's it. I think your story about your Boreal beads is fascinating though and does make them seem my special. They're stunning, by the way!

Alice said...

I love your nature inspired beads. I love to name all of my pieces and when I think of a great name I add it to my spreadsheet so I don't forget it.
My Customers love it if there is a story but that doesn't happen often.

Unknown said...

Julie, I think you know that the story is integral to my creative process. I have to have a story concept for my work to be meaningful to me. I get inspiration for the story from many places, nature, people, events, literature, or even components themselves. Sometimes the story is in my mind for weeks or months before I have what I need to compose it. And sometimes the story shifts and changes along the way.
I'm excited to see what your new work says to me so we can tell stories together! ❤️😀

Unknown said...

Oh Julie, I love this topic. I think you know how much the story means to me in my creative process. Sometimes I am just playing around with components and a story will come to me to be made into a piece. But most times I have an idea influenced by nature, literature, people, events, or something of the like and off my imagination will go. The story is the how and why of what I do, the process is sometimes (or many times) more important to me than the outcome. The story is vital to me and the way my most special pieces have been created.
I look forward to seeing your new work, to have it speak to me for my new work!❤️😀

Anonymous said...

First, let me say: I love these particular beads. Of course, all your beads, Julie, are beautiful - but thr ones that have those intricate patterns - rsndom or deliberate - that you do do well, are my favourites.
In the past I made - and sold - a lot of jewellery made with gemstones and Sterling silver. A few pieces were named, but I didn't have any theme, and most pieces sold unnamed.
Now I make - but currently don't sell - jewellery using mainly art beads, Czech glass, linen cord and copper. The odd gemstone and real silver. A few found objects. My work is now more to the raw/ethnic/boho side; and I feel these pieces should probably be named, partly because they are much more unique than what I made before - partly as a tribute to the beadmaker/s who provided the art beads.
When I start selling again, I will definitely strive to find appropriate names for my pieces.
But as others have said here, it isn't easy to find names and themes for your jewellery - though I love it when I buy beads and jewellery and they have names that connect them to the maker.
I don't know if this babbling makes sense - but who can resist the chance to win an Uglibead??

Unknown said...

I like the idea of the story but I am terrible at naming things so I don't. I love hearing other people's stories though. :)

thecolorofdreams said...

Love your boreal forest series and your pics. I love the story that goes with making jewelry and beads. I do name some of the beads that I make based on what I feel when I look at the bead. The story of the beads reflect the maker and allow others to make a connection.

Unknown said...

Absolutely the story is imporant. How a piece or inspiration plays a part in your life and how it connects to others. Thaat string of connectivity is a major part of how we inspire the world and then the world comes back to us

Shanna said...

I absolutely love reading other people's stories and seeing what they name their work, but when it comes to MY stuff, I just can't do it. I'm often motivated to purchase beads (especially handmade beads) because of the way they look and how I feel when I see them or hold them, but I always seem to freeze up when it comes to describing those feelings. The times I've tried, it just seemed silly or forced and I couldn't get my point across at all. So I usually just take the easy way out and skip it. My finished pieces never get named, but the stories and emotions are definitely there while I'm working on them.

Sue said...

The person is always part of the story for me. I love to think about them and what they represent as I make the piece. Creating something they will love is my goal. I love your beads BTW.

Shanna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sharon said...

I used to use names, not so much any more. I always have a story in my jewelry and I think it shows in my work, and it always starts with that one particularly gorgeous bead such as yours! Then the rest of the story unfolds from there. The secret lies in that stunning bead, and I have to say your beads are stunning and always convey a strong sense of emotion. Beautiful work Julie!

Susanm said...

i don't make my own beads. However, since I use hand-made artisan beads in my jewelry, I'm very aware that the individual beads have a "story". I tend to react to colour and texture more than a name. Your boreal beads are very evocative - the West Coast is one of my favourite parts of Canada.

Janine said...

What a great post Julie. You are not only very talented at making beads but also a very talented writer! And by the way..I Love love love your beads. In case you didn't know ;-)
Thanks you so so much for mentioning me and my shop and showing my bracelet.

Her Strange Kind said...

I really enjoyed reading this! I don't have a story behind the things I make, and I think that is going to change. This was very inspiring for me.

Dawn of LaTouchables said...

Hi Julie, I really enjoyed your heartfelt blogpost. I enjoy reading the comments from others too. Story is the core of the piece for me. A necklace or bag might evolve parallel to the story, but it is always there. If I were to try and create something without that certain theme or feeling, it would be cold to me. It might be beautiful or okay, but I would be missing the pulse of it. Therefore I am story-driven...most of the time.

A chance to win one of your focal beads would be a thrill.

Erin S said...

Typically I'm not sentimental about the name or story behind a bead. It's strictly if I like the way it looks. However, I do like to work with found objects and vintage/recycled items such as keys and sari silk, and I do like that these items have had a past life, and worked for a living before coming to rest in a piece of jewelry.

Unknown said...

I really enjoy your writing and the pictures on this post - your beads, that turquoise strand and the nature photos - are all stunning. I will be coming back to this more than once. My jewelry rarely has a story or a name, but I do really appreciate it from other people. I bought a bracelet by Jade Scott called Metro. Transit plays a big role in my life, and although the bracelet is beautiful, I wonder if I would have looked at it as closely if not for the name since I don't buy a lot of made jewelry. But it is perfect for me. I have several of your Growth & Wisdom pendants, and their names means something to me. I feel that when I wear them, and wear them when I need that!

Unknown said...

Julie, both the beads and the pictures are amazing! The tree with the bark peeling, revealing the bright green underneath is especially striking! Thank you for sharing your thoughts & musings. Your blog posts are always insightful and inspiring. I hope your trip was wonderful in every way!

Unknown said...

While posting my feedback about your lovely beads and pictures, I forgot to answer your question... Most of the time knowing the story behind a piece gives it more meaning, both for what I create and the items that go into that artwork. These are the items that I have the most connection with, and I generally name this type of item. However, there are definitely times when pure aesthetics IS the process, (i.e. this looks good with that, or a certain color's in fashion, etc.) For me, the first takes much more time and energy and generally results in a more elaborate item.

Unknown said...

Julie, I shared your blog with my partner, as it helps him understand me. Thank you for posting such a thoughtful piece.

For me the stories behind many of my possessions, such as handmade jewellery, clothes made from SE Asian hand woven fabrics or sourced from ethical companies, canvas prints on our walls of photos taken in beautiful wild locations visited, artisan cushions from countries special to me, a daily use set of plates and bowls with desert patterns made by a ceramic artist, all add value and inspiration to daily life. I have found it is so easy to stagnate in 'normal', ordinary life of day job & play that makes no difference, surrounded by cheap and easy mass production. The stories behind my possessions provide me with reminders to get out there and do something different, and also give with much needed inspiration.

For creative endeavours, particularly photography and more recently clothing design, I very much enjoy following a changing series of themes that provide fresh challenges and encourage me to grow. The natural environment provides much inspiration, also the work of others past and present. I'm certainly not the type of person that could be content doing the same theme and style of creative endeavour my entire life, and love observing the process of creative exploration and evolving style in the work of artists - painters, photographers, architects, musicians, jewellery designers, and glass artists.

Loving the exploration of colours in your boreal forest series Julie!

Colleen said...

I think for art beads, especially certain types, I enjoy hearing the story/inspiration behind them. For things that I create, though, I get an idea but it generally isn't based on something concrete. Especially as most of my coolest jewelry ideas come as I'm falling asleep, resulting in me turning the light on, grabbing something to write with and some paper, and putting it down on paper. The trick is to be able to find the paper later. Well, that and to find a pen because no matter how many times I put one on my nightstand, it never seems to stay there.

TesoriTrovati said...

I am so glad you are a part of our Art Bead Scene world, Miss Julie! I am enthralled with the story that you wove of the beads, the series, the teeny weenies, the walk along the wild coast, the bohemian chic special jewelry... all of it! I am a storyteller and I cannot imagine making something that doesn't have something to say! Every piece I make is distinct, so while I might work in a series, even those are unique. I always name my pieces and I take great joy in sharing the story, the inspiration behind it. That is what gives my pieces a life of their own and my collectors understand that! Thank you for this respite from my day. I feel like I walked along with you and it would be so wonderful to be with you in person, but this post had me there in spirit. Enjoy the day! Erin

Shai Williams said...

I find that I am really drawn to jewelry that is named but for the life of me, I can't seem to come up with decentralized names for mine. It might be because I make a piece and then toss it into a bin until I get around to taking pics and writing up a description (which I dread). I should finish a design and get right on it while my inspirations is fresh in my mind