Monthly Archives: August 2013

Harlequin: Cool

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It was a long haul but I finally finished my Cool version of the Harlequin armband. I’ve been making it so long, I was getting thoroughly sick of looking at it. But now it’s finished and it’s beaImage 01utiful once again.

I’m not exactly sure how long it took me to make. I always forget to keep track of the time, but it’s got 57 rows and each row takes somewhere around 25 minutes. That’s 1425 minutes (23 hours 45 mintues) not including time spent designing, adding thread or fixing errors. That’s probably a pretty conservative guess really, yesterday I used the same equation to work out how much longer I had to go until it was finished. My estimate was 4 hours, but it turned out to be 6 hours so I’m a little worse for wear today. But it’s finished. And it’s glorious.

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Quick and Easy

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As my new Harlequin armband nears completion, I find myself thinking about what to make next. I like to plan ahead so that I’m not left with the notorious Beaders Block. For the time being, I’m over doing big projects; two massive peyote stitch armbands in a row has me dreaming in cylinder-bead pixels and I need a change of pace. I’m going to tear though a whole lot of quick projects to soothe my need for variation.

My first project is going to be something for myself. I’m going to a costume party this weekend, a rare excursion out in to the world. The theme is the letter S or D, I’m going as a swinger. Get your mind out of the gutter – I mean the dancing kind! I’ve got a black and white rockabilly dress with a big poufy black petticoat and some killer black heels. A talented seamstress friend is making me a little shawl so I can hide my wobbly upper-arms. I just need a brooch to hold the shawl in place, so I thought, why not make one? I’m going to try a wire woven one, as my vision of what I would make with beads would take to long and time is getting short. 

After the brooch I have a request from my sister for a red and silver viking knit bracelet. I’m looking forward to this as I have never used the bright wire colours before and I can’t wait to see what it will look like once it’s been pulled though the drawplate. To add a little glam to the rope-ends, I’ve got some stunning abacus crystals with a half Argent Flare coating on them, which gives them a silver effect.

Once I’ve done these two things, I’m going make some simple pieces. Big, showy, artistic jewellery is great and I love it, but there is beauty in simplicity and there is satisfaction in quick results. In time I intend to take my wares to market and a good stallholder should always have some lower cost items available. I have a gorgeous selection of pendants ready for stringing, and some memory wire waiting to be adorned.

New Pathways

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Being a dabbler in everything I come across, one the skills I tried to learn, when I first started making jewellery, was wire-weaving. No matter how I tried I could not get the infernal stuff to do what it was meant to do. It tangled, it kinked, it poked me in the eye. It was relegated to a box and sent to the purgatory in the dark abyss at the back of my craft cupboard. It would be given the occasional reprieve when I needed to make simple findings like jumprings. After a time, I discovered viking knit and was pleased to find that it was relatively easy, so long as I used a narrow gauge wire. Other techniques remained out of reach for me.

Then one fateful day, I stumbled upon Nicole Hanna Jewelry (note I use different spelling for the word ‘jewelry’, the NZ spelling is jewellery). Her designs drew me in with their intricate pathways and amazing detail. Her work was so precise, and her finished pieces looked ethereal – like they had been woven by teams of pixies. For a long time, I simply admired and marvelled from afar, and of course ‘liked’ her Facebook page so that I wouldn’t miss anything new. It was through Facebook that I learned that, from time to time, Nicole hides a free tutorial on her website. When I found my hidden prize I was instantly digging out my wire to try my hand at subduing it once and for all.Image 01

Alas, it wasn’t to be. What I created was an abomination and was quickly binned. Much later the Nicole Hanna Treasure Hunt caught my attention again and this time I struck it lucky. The Loop Prong earrings pattern was mostly simple coiling. It still took several tries to get it right but I ended up with a passable pendant (I decided not to go for earrings because making two that match might be too tricky). While there was no true weaving in the pattern, something clicked for me and I started to see how to work with the wires natural coil, instead of battling against it.

I’m still a long way away from being totally confident in my wire creations, but I’m finally making progress – and I have a collection of Nicole’s tutorials to work

on to keep me busy.

Harlequin

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Pictured is my most recent completed piece, Harlequin. The complex pattern of overlapping diamonds reminded me of the bright colours and patterns of the harlequin stage costumes of yesteryear. It was inspired by the work of Kate McKinnon, author of Contemporary Geometric beadwork. After seeing a photo of it, Kate has asked that I send it Image 01to her in Arizona so that she can photograph it herself. She has also asked if I would make another similar piece, which is in progress now. I’m extremely flattered that Kate would request my work, as I never considered myself to be be of the same caliber of the amazing artists who have contributed to her first volume of CGB. Of course I am aware than not every photographed piece will make it to print, and mine may very well end up on the cutting room floor – but simply to be asked and to have my work admired by my peers (and a few idols) is enough to inflate my ego and have me strutting around the house like some kind of chunky Mick Jagger.

The new armband is of cooler hues and is looking fantastic so far, but the process is slow. The pattern is based on the same idea, but is entirely new. I only work at night due to being a busy stay at home mum, or as the internet would say, ‘SAHM’ (am I the only one who finds these acronyms irritating?). I usually manage between 3 and 4 hours of work a night, but I would happily bead 8 hours a day if I could. I’m not a patient person and to see my creation grow by mere millimeters is frustrating. But I keep going because I know how great it’s going to feel to see it finished.

N.B
These pieces won’t be available for sale for a while, but I am happy to do custom work for anyone who would like one. No two will be the same and there is a huge range of colour options available. If you would like a quote (with no obligation) for a Harlequin armband or any other jewellery email me at sales@jennysangster.co.nz

In the beginning

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Bead weaving is not something I set out to learn I just kind of hazarded upon it. I am restless by nature and I’m not happy unless I’m accomplishing something. For me the sense of satisfaction only comes from creating.

As a child it was play-doh crocodiles, then drawing, painting, crochet, friendship bracelets made out of embroidery thread. I was always looking for something to make. Nothing satisfied me for long. Enter my teenage years, despite being bitter and angry at the world, my need to create expressed itself in other ways. Tie-dyed sarongs hung from my ceiling creating my own personal cave and sanctuary, images of Pan and Kali, peeking out between the twist and turns. Music began to have huge importance in my life.

Later, escaping into my 20’s, I began to find myself again. I knew I needed something, but wasn’t sure what. I studied Biology and Physics, and while I enjoyed it immensely, other things were calling me. I picked up my crochet hooks, my knitting needles, paint brushes, pencils, pastels – I even learned to hand-quilt. I had a young baby and a dozen projects in progress.

Severe carpel-tunnel syndrome in both hands suddenly took hold. It became crippling very quickly and I learned how to change a wriggling baby’s nappy mostly using my feet and forearms. Insurance meant that I didn’t have to wait long for surgery, but it still left me in creative limbo for a frustrating year as recovery was slow. I reached the point that I couldn’t knit anymore, so I put away my half finished jumper. I picked it up again when I recovered and knitted the sleeves. When those were done I tipped everything out of the bag to search for a needle to sew them on, only to discover that I had knitted three sleeves. I guess I was a little over eager, but out pet rats enjoyed their new bed.

That’s when I started making jewellery. I’m still not sure how it came about that I ended up with necklace wire and beads – most likely it was something that my mother bought on a whim and gave to me in a bag of clothes and children’s books. I remember buying some cheap stretch cord and experimenting with thread paths. I didn’t know it then, but I had begun something that would take me on a journey. I had ventured in to the world of peyote stitch and right angle weave. That was three years ago and I haven’t looked back. My yarns and paints sit in their draws, neglected, with the promise of ‘one day’.